Pavelec gives Jets upper hand in Florida

Winnipeg netminder Ondrej Pavelec is unbeaten in three career starts at BankAtlantic Center, where the Jets take on the Florida Panthers on Monday night.
Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec is 4-1-0 in six career starts versus the Panthers, including 3-0-0 at the BankAtlantic Center. (Marianne Helm/Getty Images)

Every meeting last season between the Florida Panthers and the Atlanta Thrashers, now the Winnipeg Jets, was decided by one goal.

A potential matchup Monday night between Jose Theodore and Ondrej Pavelec could also be tight.

Each goaltender has enjoyed success against his next opponent heading into the first meeting of the season between the Southeast Division rivals.

Theodore is new to this rivalry after signing a two-year deal and the former Hart Trophy winner as NHL MVP has been solid in seven starts for the Panthers. He went 14-5-0 with a 2.63 goals-against average in 21 career starts against Atlanta.

Pavelec, meanwhile, is 4-1-0 with a 2.04 GAA in six career starts against Florida — 3-0-0 with a 1.63 GAA in three starts at the BankAtlantic Center.

Winnipeg (3-6-1) has started a seven-game road stretch with a pair of one-goal games that could not have been more different. The Jets won 9-8 at Philadelphia on Thursday and fell 1-0 at Tampa Bay on Saturday.

"I think that we recognize that we're not going to have the ability to score nine every night," Jets rookie coach Claude Noel said. "I thought we played hard.

"I thought Pavelec was outstanding. I thought he was great. I thought he rebounded real well in the game."

Pavelec made 26 saves against the Lightning. He allowed seven goals on 43 shots versus the Flyers and was forced to re-enter the game after backup Chris Mason left with an apparent groin injury.

"It was a difficult one," Pavelec said. "You let eight goals in and you get the two points and now it's a one-goal game and you get the loss.

"I mean, it is what it is. That's why hockey's so nice."

He'll try to slow down Stephen Weiss, who led Florida with six points in the 2010-11 season series. Weiss had three goals and no other Panther tallied more than one in the six matchups.

Blake Wheeler, who has yet to score this season, had a team-high three goals for Atlanta against Florida last season, despite playing only two games in the series after coming over from Boston.

Theodore returned Saturday after missing two games with a lower body injury and made 24 saves in a 3-2 win at Buffalo.

"We played a solid game," Theodore said. "I saw the puck well.

"When you can see the puck, you can control the rebounds and play all the shooters well."

Tomas Fleischmann and Jason Garrison scored in the final four minutes to help the Panthers rally past the Sabres.

Florida won two of three on its road trip, with each game decided by one goal. The Panthers won 2-1 at Montreal last Monday and fell 4-3 to Ottawa on Thursday when they allowed the winning goal with four seconds left.

"We talked a lot about all this new personnel we have and you can do all the team bonding stuff you want, [but] it's games like that that make a difference for you," Panthers rookie head coach Kevin Dineen said about Saturday's win.

"So it turns into a good road trip, could have been a great road trip, but you've gotta like the bounce-back game."