Sometimes putting up 46 shots on goal just isn’t good enough. Monday was one of those nights.
The Winnipeg Jets seemingly threw everything but the kitchen sink at 25-year-old Arizona Coyotes netminder Karel Vejmelka, but the first-year backstop was up for the task, shutting out the home team 1-0 in what was as lopsided of an affair as one could imagine.
“It was a special moment for me, for a shutout. I got the puck,” an emotional Vejmelka said post-game. “An unbelievable moment for me. I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as I can right now. Unbelievable night and big points for us.”
Led by an Antoine Roussel second period tally, Arizona took the first battle of Winnipeg’s four-game homestand by way of a 1-0 score. Vejmelka stopped all 46 shots he faced in the game, stealing a win for the lowly Coyotes.
“There are going to be games this year where we play much worse than that where we win,” captain Blake Wheeler said. “I don’t know if I’ve been a part of a game where you outshoot a team by 30 in the NHL. Credit to them, they got in shot lanes, they sold out, their goalie played well.”
The first period was a bit of a snoozer for the typical goal-hungry hockey fan. Although putting up 17 shots to Arizona’s seven, the Jets were unable to crack the career 1-9-0 starter, despite six of those shots classifying as high-danger chances. Surprisingly, of Arizona’s seven shots on net, five were considered high-danger scoring chances.
Evgeny Svechnikov had three of Winnipeg’s best opportunities in the frame. He missed point blank from the top of the crease midway through the period, before failing to tap-in a two-on-one up-ice with Pierre-Luc Dubois and the resulting rebound chance.
Vejmelka remained on top of his game in the middle stanza as well, stopping 15 more Winnipeg shots, including three on a mid-period power play. He actually became one of the stories of the game, pitching a shutout on 32 shots faced through 40 minutes of play. Winnipeg held a 32-12 shot lead heading into the third period, despite trailing 1-0.
Giving up their lone goal off of a Nikolaj Ehlers turnover in the neutral zone. Loui Eriksson carried the puck into the Winnipeg zone before sending a perfectly-placed backhand pass over the defenders’ sticks to Antoine Roussel, who tapped in his third goal of the season.
“They’re not an aggressive team,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “They’re gonna wait for some chances, a turnover in the second period, and wait for their chances. But that’s where they are in their development. They’re older than we are, actually, but that’s where they’re at right now. They played hard, they played to what they had and they gave their goalie a chance and and he was good.”
Vejmelka continued to stand on his head in the third period, turning aside Kyle Connor twice in a span of five seconds on a long-sustained offensive zone shift. He then helped the Coyotes kill off back-to-back penalties through the midway point of the frame. With Clayton Keller and Travis Boyd each serving minors, Winnipeg failed to capitalize, putting up just one shot in four total minutes of power play time.
But with 5:08 to go, Kyle Capobianco was handed a four-minute double minor for drawing blood on the cheek of Blake Wheeler. But once again, the team could not solve the rookie tendy. Sent to the man advantage time and time again late in the third period, Winnipeg finished the night 0/6 on the power play, while going 0/5 in the third period alone.
“We just have to try and stay positive with it and just keep working because no one is going to feel bad for us,” Paul Stastny said. “We’re struggling a bit scoring but it’s not for lack of chances and we didn’t cheat the game to get more. WE played a sound game and it wasn’t there tonight.”
Connor Hellebuyck turned aside 14 shots in the game, picking up his sixth loss of the season, (7-6-4). He actually made his 10,000th career NHL save in Monday’s game. Karel Vejmelka blocked all 46 of Winnipeg’s shots. He saw his record improve to 2-9-0.
“We had plenty of meat on that bone tonight,” Wheeler added. “There were some looks, empty nets, ones we typically put in, but tonight wasn’t our night.”
After starting the month of November with five wins in the team’s first seven games, Winnipeg dropped five-straight contests before picking up a win in Calgary on Saturday. Finishing the month off with a loss, the Jets earned 13 of a possible 28 points in November.
“Veji was rock-solid and the guys on the PK came up big … It’s fun to win the game that way because our PK had been challenged early in the season. Now, we made good strides and we needed them. I think it’s eight penalties of penalties in the third or something like that and they made there. They had big blocked shots and they controlled the blueline pretty well so we got some momentum with them. I’m really proud of them.”
The Jets now welcome the New Jersey Devils to town on Friday, continuing their four-game homestand at Canada Life Centre. Toronto rolls into Winnipeg on Sunday evening, before the Carolina Hurricanes make a visit next Tuesday.