By Jim Bender, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets struggles continued, this time against a rookie goaltender.
Unheralded Karel Vejmelka made 46 saves to record his first NHL shutout as the Arizona Coyotes clipped Winnipeg 1-0 on Monday. It was the Jets’ sixth loss in seven games despite outshooting the visitors 46-15.
“There are going to be games this year where we play much worse than that where we win,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler. “I don’t know if I’ve been a part of a game where you outshoot a team by 30 in the NHL.
“Credit to them, they got in shot lanes, they sold out, their goalie played well.”
Coyotes coach Andre Tourigny gave most of the credit to his rookie netminder.
“Thank God we had Veji (Vejmelka),” said Coyotes coach Andre Tourigny. “Veji was rock-solid and the guys on the (penalty kill) came up big … It’s fun to win the game that way because our PK had been challenged early in the season.”
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 14-of-15 shots for Winnipeg (10-8-4), which has only nine goals in its past seven games. Monday’s loss was the second time the Jets were shut out in four games.
“We are playing pretty well,” said Wheeler. “The offensive production is the part that is lacking, and that’s never been a problem with our team. Adversity is a really good thing.”
Vejmelka, who hails from the Czech Republic, kept the puck.
“It was a special moment for me, for a shutout,” said the six-foot-four, 203-pound goalie who was signed by Arizona as a free agent this past May. “An unbelievable moment for me. I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as I can right now. Unbelievable night and big points for us.
It was just Vejmelka’s second win in 14 NHL starts for Arizona.
“I took a picture with (the puck) and I will give it to my father because he supported me every single game when I was a child,” he said.
Tourigny was also impressed with the Coyotes’ penalty killers, who kept Arizona (5-15-2) in the game after Antoine Roussel scored late in the second period.
“Now, we made good strides and we needed them. I think it’s eight minutes of penalties in the third or something like that and they made it,” said Tourigny. “They had big blocked shots and they controlled the blue line pretty well, so we got some momentum with them. I’m really proud of them.”
The Coyotes actually killed nine penalties in the game.
It was the first of a four-game homestand for the Jets. They welcome the New Jersey Devils on Friday.
“You’ll have games where you don’t win those games and then, there will be games later down the road that we don’t deserve to win, and we will find a way to win,” said Jets forward Paul Stastny. “We just have to try and stay positive with it and just keep working because no one is going to feel bad for us.
“We’re struggling a bit scoring but it’s not for lack of chances, and we didn’t cheat the game to get more. We played a sound game and it wasn’t there tonight.”
It was the first of a four-game homestand for the Jets. They welcome the New Jersey Devils to Canada Life Centre on Friday.
The Coyotes play the Wild in Minnesota on Tuesday, then return home to play the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday.