Winnipeg, MB (SportsNetwork.com) - Ondrej Pavelec made 39 saves for his sixth consecutive win and the Winnipeg Jets beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-2 Thursday night.
Dustin Byfuglien returned after missing nine games with an upper-body injury and scored Winnipeg's first goal. Mark Scheifele, Jim Slater, Blake Wheeler and Adam Lowry also lit the lamp for the Jets, who bounced back from Tuesday's loss in Vancouver to pick up their sixth win in seven games.
The Jets, in good position for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference, reached 90 points for the first time since finishing with 97 as the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2006-07 season.
"We were just driving," said Slater. "That was a good team. They threw up a lot of shots, and (Pavelec) obviously gave us the confidence there that he was definitely in it tonight. We put some big goals on the board at the right time."
The Atlantic Division-leading Canadiens could have clinched a playoff berth with a win after Anaheim beat Boston on Thursday night. They lost their grip on first place in the Eastern Conference to the New York Rangers, who beat Ottawa to move one point ahead.
Andrei Markov and Brendan Gallagher scored but Dustin Tokarski gave up five goals on just 22 shots for the Canadiens, who have dropped two in a row, including an overtime loss in Nashville on Tuesday. They had a four-game point streak snapped.
Byfuglien's slap shot 12:33 into the game gave the Jets the lead for good.
Scheifele made it 2-0 after 6:05 in the second period, but Tyler Myers did the work, taking the puck on the low left side after two Canadiens collided and finding his teammate in the low slot for the easy score.
"They just want to use their speed and forecheck and play physical hockey," Gallagher said of the Jets. "They did that tonight. We expected that. It wasn't anything that caught us off guard, but it's the strength of their team. They were able to create some chances off of it."
Pavelec, who stopped all 20 shots he faced in the first period, might not have seen Markov's fluttering shot through traffic at 6:46 of the second, which got the Canadiens on the board.
But Winnipeg scored two more times before the second period was over, taking a 4-1 lead on the goals by Slater and Wheeler.
Slater scored off his right skate as he skidded into the crease after the puck went off Tokarski's pad. The play was reviewed and upheld as a goal and Wheeler scored about 10 minutes later, at 19:00, on a one-timer from the left circle off a cross-ice pass from Scheifele.
Gallagher scored 11:37 into the third period for Montreal but Lowry restored Winnipeg's three-goal lead just 45 seconds later.
The Canadiens beat the Jets 3-0 on Nov. 11 in Montreal and had won seven of the previous eight meetings ... Montreal starts a three-game homestand on Saturday against Florida ... Winnipeg continues a four-game homestand on Sunday against Chicago.