Published April 22, 2013
| Sports Network
Buffalo, NY – Antti Miettinen scored the deciding goal in the third period, and Ondrej Pavelec stopped 24-of-25 shots to help the Winnipeg Jets pick up a crucial late-season win with a 2-1 decision over the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center.
Aaron Gagnon also tallied for the Jets, who closed within a point of idle Washington for first place in the Southeast Division with two games remaining in the regular season. Winnipeg, now 6-0-1 over its last seven contests, also trails the New York Rangers by the same margin for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, though both the Capitals and Rangers currently own a game in hand.
The Jets will visit Washington for a high-stakes showdown on Tuesday.
"I think it's been circled on our calendar for a long time now," said Winnipeg forward Andrew Ladd. "We wanted to put ourselves in a position where tomorrow's going to be a meaningful game, and we've done that."
Buffalo was dealt a second consecutive defeat and sixth straight in its series with Winnipeg despite a 37-save effort by Jhonas Enroth. Thomas Vanek accounted for the Sabres' lone goal in the second period.
"Jhonas was excellent tonight," said Sabres forward Steve Ott. "I thought he stood on his head and stopped close to 40 shots. We needed him to be good and he was probably our best player tonight. It's too bad we fell on the short end of things."
Miettinen broke a 1-1 deadlock with a slap shot from the right point that trickled through the pads of a screened Enroth with 7:36 left to play, and Pavelec made the lead stand by coming up with five of his 11 saves during the final period over the last six minutes.
"I really didn't see how it got in there," Miettien said of his game-winner. "I was just listening to the crowd [react]."
The Sabres weren't able to pull Enroth until under a minute remaining, and failed to record a shot on goal in the closing stages.
Enroth kept the Sabres even during a scoreless first period in which the Jets finished with a 15-4 advantage in shots, but Winnipeg finally broke through with 7:42 elapsed in the second.
Derek Meech skated into the Buffalo zone before sending the puck in front for an awaiting Gagnon, who tipped the pass past Enroth to put the Jets ahead.
Vanek gave Buffalo the equalizer on a power play later in the frame, re- directing a centering feed from Tyler Ennis into an open left side 8:03 prior to the second intermission.
The Jets had the best scoring chance of the opening period after Evander Kane was awarded a penalty shot when being taken down from behind by the Sabres' Andrej Sekera with just over five minutes left in the stanza. The Winnipeg forward tried to beat Enroth with a wrister upstairs, but the Buffalo netminder was able to get a piece of the attempt with his glove and deflect it over the crossbar.
Jets forward Kyle Wellwood left the game in the second period after being hit in the hand by a shot ... Ladd was named the NHL's First Star of the Week on Monday after amassing two goals and six assists over the Jets' three previous outings ... Prior to the game, Winnipeg announced that center Olli Jokinen will miss 6-to-8 weeks with a high ankle sprain sustained in Saturday's 5-4 overtime loss to the New York Islanders ... Defenseman Zach Bogosian also sat out for the Jets after suffering a reported concussion against the Isles, while Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta missed the game with a hand injury that came during Friday's 8-4 setback to the New York Rangers ... The Jets improved to 13-4-3 in one-goal games this season.