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Montoya's hot hand leads Jets to another win

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Goaltending controversy? What goaltending controversy?

Winnipeg Jets goaltendeder Al Montoya stopped 26 shots to lead his squad to a 3-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at the MTS Centre. It was his second shutout of the season and the Jets third consecutive wins since he replaced goalie Ondrej Pavelec against the Minnesota Wild on Dec. 27th.

But even though Montoya has the hot hand and his 1.85 goals-against-average and .934 save percentage is superior to Pavelec's 3.03 GAA and .902 save percentage, Jets coach Claude Noel was steadfast that Pavelec remains his No. 1 netminder.

"I think Montoya played a real strong game," Noel said. "I'm happy we've won three in a row. I thought he played big in the net. When they were in our zone, they had a lot of activity there, that made me a little bit nervous.

"I'm fully aware of what Al is doing. He's playing well. You can't lose sight of the fact that Pavelec is our starting goalie. That's not to say that Montoya isn't going to play. I'm not sure who will start the next game. These things, they're like your special teams, to a degree. They kind of go in cycles and right not he's on a good cycle."

Montoya, the first Cuban American to play in the NHL, certainly wasn't going to disagree with his coach's assessment of his play. He attributed a highlight-reel save against Sabres center Tyler Ennis in the game's opening moments for getting off on the right foot.

"That was huge to get me going," he said. "You don't want it to be bang-bang like that (but) I found the puck and was able to make a desperation save. Luckily, he was too close to me that he couldn't get the puck up. It allows me to be athletic and be reactive right away."

The Jets are on their second-best streak of the season and they hope to match the four consecutive wins they reeled off in November when they start a three-game road trip in Ottawa against the Senators.

The Jets goal scorers were defensemen Keaton Ellerby and Jacob Trouba and right winger Anthony Peluso.

Left winger Evander Kane, who dished to tough guy Peluso on a 2-0 break with Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth on the bench in the late going, admitted to a little bit of pain at passing up the empty net.

At the same time, Kane said and his teammates weren't going to separate their shoulders patting each other on the back considering they're still below the playoff line.

"Three (wins) in a row is great but we're still in the same spot we were three games ago. We're out of the playoffs and we're a ways out and we need to continue to win," he said.

The Jets opened the scoring at 10:42 of the first period when Ellerby's snapshot from the point squeezed by Enroth. Jets captain Andrew Ladd assisted on the defenseman's second goal of the season.

The Sabres thought they had tied it at 15:39 but right winger Drew Stafford knocked the net off its moorings seconds before defenseman Jamie McBain knocked the puck past Montoya.

Sabres coach Ted Nolan was disappointed in the disallowed goal.

"We're the type of team that can't have any turnovers or mistakes and get caught trying to fight back. It's a tough league to score goals, if we wave off every goal and wait for the goal judge and it's inconclusive, that's what is going to happen," he said.

Trouba made it 2-0 with his third of the season when he one-timed a saucer pass from right winger Chris Thorburn at 14:06 of the second period. Thorburn was playing in his 500th NHL game.

Peluso salted the game away with his second of the season with 88 seconds left in the game into the empty net.

NOTES: The win put the Jets above .500, moving them to 19-18-5. The Sabres, meanwhile, fell to 11-25-4. ... It is widely expected that Sabres G Ryan Miller will be named to the U.S. Olympic team Wednesday. He could be joined by several Jets, including D Dustin Byfuglien, D Jacob Trouba and D Zach Bogosian and RW Blake Wheeler. ... The Jets played 23 one-goal games this season, second in the NHL and trailing only Calgary (25) and New Jersey (24). ... Ted Nolan is the second Sabres head coach to have two separate stints behind the team's bench. Scotty Bowman is the other.
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