Ondrej Pavelec made 39 saves and Bryan Little scored a third period goal that turned out to be the eventual game-winner, as the Winnipeg Jets handed the Boston Bruins' their first regulation loss in 16 games with a 2-1 victory Tuesday night at MTS Centre.
The defending Stanley Cup champions had not lost prior to overtime in any game since a 4-2 defeat by the Montreal Canadiens on October 29th. It was also the Bruins' first visit to Winnipeg since New Year's Eve, 1995.
Tuukka Rask got the start for Claude Julien's squad, spelling number one goaltender Tim Thomas. Rask had a 4-0-1 streak after beginning the season 0-3-0, and despite stopping 33 Jets' shots, saw his record drop to 4-4-1.
There were a couple of factors that made this a difficult contest for Boston.
It was their second contest in back-to-back games and the third game in four nights for the Big Bad Bruins, and they were coming off a very physical and dominating performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night.
Just moments before game time, it was announced that Boston's leading scorer, Tyler Seguin, would not play. He had missed a team meeting / breakfast on Tuesday morning, and the team was making a disciplinary stand because of his actions. Evidently it was not the first time this had happened with Seguin, as reported by CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty via Twitter. Right winger Jordan Caron dressed for the first time since November 15th in Seguin's absence.
Little's eighth goal of the season came 4:50 into the third period, and it would prove to be the game-winner. Following a neutral zone faceoff and with the teams skating four-on-four, Little gathered the puck at center ice and skated in on Rask, sliding a shot that got through the Bruins' netminder to give Winnipeg the 2-1 lead.
After a scoreless second period and Winnipeg grasping tightly to a 1-0 lead, Boston was able to even the score early in the third.
Jason Jaffray had a chance to clear the zone, but Gregory Campbell stole the puck before he got to the blue line. Campbell sent a pass down low to Daniel Paille at the bottom of the right wing circle. Paille's centering pass deflected off of Shawn Thornton in the crease and past Pavelec for his second of the year to knot the score at 1-1 just 3:16 into the third period.
The Jets had taken a 1-0 lead late in the opening period, when captain Andrew Ladd skated into the Bruins' zone along the left wing side. As he neared the left faceoff dot, Rask dropped down into the butterfly position early, so he snapped off a wrist shot high to the short side that beat Rask over the right shoulder for his ninth of the season at the 18:21 mark.
Winnipeg came close to adding to that lead in the final 10 seconds of the first, when Ladd and Kyle Wellwood found themselves on a two-on-one break. Ladd attempted to feed Wellwood for a one-time shot at the right faceoff circle, but the play was broken up by a sprawling Andrew Ference.
The Jets have not lost a game since the calendar flipped over to December, going 3-0-0 in the new month. Winnipeg's defensive play has been one of the biggest catalysts for success, yielding just three goals in the three contests during the streak.
Pavelec improved his record to 10-9-4 on the year, winning his third straight decision. He has given up just three goals in those three starts.