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Jets' Montoya makes 27 saves, shuts out Sabres 3-0

AP - Sports

NHL Highlights

Buffalo Sabres at Winnipeg Jets - 12/31/2013

Buffalo Sabres at Winnipeg Jets - 12/31/2013

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) -- Al Montoya spent 2013 as Winnipeg's backup goalie. He is now making a strong push for the regular starting job as he heads into the second half of the season.

Montoya made 27 saves and led the Jets to a 3-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.

Keaton Ellerby, Jacob Trouba and Anthony Peluso provided all the offense necessary for Montoya, who earned his second shutout of the season. Winnipeg tied a season best with its third straight win.

''For me, it's just about doing the right things in practice and working hard,'' said Montoya, who didn't offer an opinion on whether he deserved No. 1 status.

Montoya (8-2-1), making his second straight start after relieving Ondrej Pavelec in the first period of a game last week against Minnesota, has won six consecutive decisions.

''I'm fully aware of what Al Montoya's doing and how he's playing,'' Jets coach Claude Noel said. ''He played very well again. You've got to give him full credit. You can't lose sight of the fact that Pavelec is our starting goalie.''

Sabres backup Jhonas Enroth got his 12th start of the season and handed the Jets (19-18-5) the lead when a weak point shot from Ellerby got past his blocker in the first period.

''I saw it all the way,'' Enroth said. ''He literally threw a curveball at me. It was a knuckle puck that dipped right in front of me, and I just got a piece of it.''

The Sabres (11-25-4) thought they had tied it when Marcus Foligno banged the puck past Montoya, but the net was dislodged before the puck went in. The call was upheld following a video review.

''If that goes our way it's a different kind of game,'' said Sabres forward Drew Stafford, who knocked off the net.

Trouba, a rookie defenceman, one-timed Chris Thorburn's pass and beat Enroth at 13:06 of the second period for his third goal of the season.

Peluso added an empty-net goal with 1:28 remaining.

The Jets have said they will need to string together more than just a three-game streak to make a push for a Western Conference playoff spot.

''I think every team struggles with consistency,'' Trouba said. ''It's part of the game, and it's what you're striving for.''

Enroth finished with 23 saves. The Sabres have scored only 16 goals in his 12 starts.

Buffalo failed to score on four power plays, and the Jets were blanked the three times they had the man advantage.

While Montoya's $601,000 salary is $3.3 million less than Pavelec's, his play could soon force Noel to re-evaluate the way he splits his goalies' workloads.

Pavelec is 11-16-4, with a .902 save percentage. Montoya increased his save percentage to .934.

The Sabres, owners of the NHL's worst record, had earned points in seven of their previous nine games, including a win against the Jets.

NOTES: Buffalo forward Ville Leino, who was shaken up against Washington on Sunday, was in the lineup but left after just three first-period shifts because of a lower-body injury. ... Thorburn played in his 500th NHL game. ... Winnipeg forward Blake Wheeler's 10 goals in December were second only to the 12 scored by Chicago's Patrick Sharp.

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