WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Patience and strong goaltending helped the Winnipeg Jets move into the top spot in the Southeast Division with a 3-1 win over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.
The Jets once again heaped praise on Ondrej Pavelec, who let in only one goal on 28 shots as the Jets rallied in the third to come back from a 1-0 deficit.
“To say (Pavelec) has been on his game is a bit of an understatement, he’s been spectacular,” said Blake Wheeler, who had two goals for the Jets.
“He plays big right now,” coach Claude Noel said.
“Stuff gets bounced on the way to the net and he makes saves. … To me that’s just maturing as a goalie and that’s why we want him to be part of our future.”
At the start of the lockout-shortened season Noel said goaltending was going to be more important than ever for any team that wanted to make the playoffs.
Wheeler and Evander Kane scored 57 seconds apart in the third as the Jets took charge of a game that Boston had controlled for 2½ periods.
Wheeler also added an empty-netter for the Jets, who leapfrogged Carolina again to take the lead in the Southeast Division with 34 points. The Hurricanes lost 4-1 to Florida and are two points back.
Brad Marchand scored for the Bruins, who dropped their second straight and are two points back of Montreal for the lead in the Northeast.
“We did play a pretty good game all night, but we just let our foot off the pedal there for a little bit and they took advantage of it,” Marchand said.
Until the third, the Bruins had given the Jets a lesson in tight defensive play and it was Pavelec who kept them in the game.
The only goal he allowed came just eight seconds into the second period. Marchand grabbed a loose puck right beside the Winnipeg net and scored because of a mistake by Zach Bogosian.
Pavelec said later it was just a bad bounce, but it did seem to take the wind out of Winnipeg’s sails in the second.
The Jets defenseman bounced the puck off the net instead of clearing it, Marchand swooped in and was free and clear to slip it in from the edge of the crease.
Noel said he didn’t plan on raising the issue with a player who has been one of his top blue liners.
“We’ve all done that, does somebody need to remind you, does somebody have to say to you ‘what were you thinking?’ “
He also praised his top line of Wheeler, captain Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little. Both Little and Ladd picked up assists Tuesday.
“That line has logged heavy minutes,” Noel said.
“They keep doing the right things. There’s not many times that line has an off night.”
The Jets managed to shut down the Bruins in the first period even though Boston had two power-play opportunities.
The Jets didn’t score until 11:44 of the third, when Wheeler redirected Bogosian’s shot from the blue-line past Tuukka Rask on a power play.
Then Kane slammed home Grant Clitsome’s rebound to put the Jets ahead at 12:41.
Rask stopped 22 shots for Boston.
Dustin Byfuglien had a bit of an off night, but Noel said the team as a whole is growing and showing more maturity and that’s important right now as they fight to stay in the playoff picture.
“We’re reliant on each other and the group and not just one or two. … You’re only as good as the group for me,” Noel said.
“There’s no easy games. Just because we beat Boston doesn’t mean we’re going to play Washington back to back and that will be a lesser game.”
Notes: The Jets have been keeping it clean, particularly at home. Only Calgary and Minnesota have been short-handed fewer times than the Jets. They’ve had to kill 88 penalties in total and an NHL-low 29 at home, before Tuesday.
RANGERS 3, DEVILS 2: Michael Del Zotto scored a short-handed goal and set up Rick Nash’s winner to lead New York to a win at Newark, N.J.
Travis Zajac and Anton Volchenkov scored for New Jersey, which lost its third in a row.
PENGUINS 2, CAPITALS 1: Defenseman Matt Niskanen scored the go-ahead goal in the third period and Sidney Crosby had two assists as host Pittsburgh won its 10th straight.
Niskanen’s goal at 11:58 came 9 seconds after the Penguins killed a four-minute penalty in the third period.
The winning streak is the longest of the season for the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins and the second-longest in the NHL this season.
SABRES 3, CANADIENS 2: Steve Ott’s second goal of the game at 2:16 of overtime lifted Buffalo to a win at Montreal.
P.K. Subban was off after his stick clipped Mark Pysyk and, with 2 seconds left in the man advantage, Ott was at the doorstep to shovel in a rebound.
The Sabres are 5-5-3 under Coach Ron Rolston since Lindy Ruff was fired Feb. 20.
SENATORS 5, ISLANDERS 3: Sergei Gonchar scored with 1 minute left for Ottawa, who scored four goals in the third period to win at Uniondale, N.Y.
Gonchar’s second goal of the season came on a blast from the point to make it 4-3, and Guillaume Latendresse added an empty-net goal to seal the win.
Ben Bishop, a former UMaine goalie, made 26 saves in the win.
PANTHERS 4, HURRICANES 1: Tomas Fleischmann, Marcel Goc and Shawn Matthias scored 6:12 apart in the third period to lead Florida to a win at Raleigh, N.C.
The Panthers snapped a six-game losing streak.
BLUE JACKETS 4, PREDATORS 3: Sergei Bobrovksy shook off a slap shot to his mask and withstood two late goals, and Mark Letestu had a goal and an assist as host Columbus beat Nashville to extend its franchise-record point streak to 11 games.
Fedor Tyutin, Nikita Nikitin and Derick Brassard also scored for Columbus, which is on a 7-0-4 run.
Gabriel Bourque, Chris Mueller and Mike Fisher scored for the Predators, who have lost four in a row.
DEVILS: New Jersey activated goaltender Martin Brodeur off injured reserve.
Brodeur, the NHL’s all-time winningest goaltender, has been sidelined since mid-February with a pinched nerve in his upper back and neck.
SENATORS: Forward Milan Michalek had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and will be out indefinitely.