Avs win 1-0 in shootout; Jets still clinch playoff berth
DENVER (AP) Even after a hard loss, there were hugs and handshakes all around the Winnipeg locker room.
Sure, the Jets would've preferred to earn a playoff spot without any assistance Thursday night. But hey, they're in, and really that's all that matters.
For the first time in eight seasons, no less.
''Finally, we did it,'' goaltender Ondrej Pavelec said after a 1-0 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche. ''It's a good feeling. A really good feeling.''
Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene scored in the shootout, and Reto Berra stopped both Winnipeg shots. Berra finished with a season-high 41 saves, then stymied Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd in the shootout for his first NHL shutout.
The Jets received help from Calgary to squeeze into the playoffs as a wild card when the Flames knocked defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles out of the race. The last time the franchise made the postseason was in 2006-07, when the team was the Atlanta Thrashers. The Jets are making their first playoff appearance since relocating to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season.
''What a feeling,'' Wheeler said. ''We have as good of a chance as anyone, so we're pretty excited.''
Pavelec had another brilliant night, stopping 21 shots through overtime. But O'Reilly beat him with a backhanded shot and Duchene followed with another on a wrist shot.
Colorado did not make the playoffs this season. Instead, the Avs tried to play the role of spoiler.
''Our players deserve a lot of credit. I am very proud of them the way that they handled the situation,'' Avs coach Patrick Roy said. ''It would be very easy for them to shut down.''
The Jets tried to keep from scoreboard watching. They didn't want to know what was happening in the Flames-Kings game.
Except Pavelec couldn't resist sneaking some glances in between periods.
''Somebody said (the Kings game) was over,'' Pavelec said. ''It was a good feeling, especially after this game.''
A big boost to everyone's spirits. It takes the pressure off the regular-season finale Saturday against Calgary.
''It's the happiest I've ever seen (the locker room) after a loss,'' Ladd said. ''I don't think we wanted to get in that way, but you take it any way you can.
''We've been playing playoff hockey the last three weeks, so we're ready for it. You just have to get in to give yourself a chance.''
Berra kept the game scoreless with 14 seconds remaining in regulation when Wheeler skated in and attempted a shot that Berra thwarted with his leg. Wheeler nearly had the winner in the waning seconds of OT, but he couldn't quite wrap in a shot from behind the net.
''It was a great night,'' said Berra, who's struggled at times this season. ''I'm happy I have good form right now.''
Pavelec is on quite a roll, shutting out Minnesota and St. Louis earlier in the week. He's started 12 of the team's last 13 games and is 9-2-1.
Winnipeg forward Mathieu Perreault tumbled to the ice after a hit from behind midway through the second period. Perreault crawled his way to the bench, where he was assisted to the dressing room with a lower-body injury. He returned for one shift before heading back to the locker room.
All-Star defenseman Dustin Byfuglien served the fourth and final game of his suspension for his cross-check to the head of New York Rangers center J.T. Miller on March 31.
''It's tough to sit there and watch,'' Byfuglien said before the game. ''It's not fun. No one wants to do it, but the boys have played good hockey.''
The Avs are out the playoffs one season after tying a franchise record with 52 wins. General manager Joe Sakic chalked it up to a slow start, when the team began 3-6-5.
''We're in the toughest (conference) so you can't afford a slow start,'' Sakic said. ''We have to be ready to play right from the start.''
NOTES: The Jets' Paul Maurice coached in his 1,200th NHL game. ''It's not a milestone. It's just a game,'' the 48-year-old Maurice said. ''That's the way it feels anyway.'' ... Roy said F Dennis Everberg will probably undergo shoulder surgery. ... Sakic hopes to work out a long-term deal with O'Reilly before the start of next season. ... Berra started in goal for Semyon Varlamov, who will return to the net in the season finale against Chicago on Saturday. ... Avs D Brad Stuart left with a leg injury early in the game.