The 22-year-old was the target of two full-blooded challenges from United enforcer Paul Paton inside five second-half minutes.
But he refused to let the home side's physical tactics deter him and grabbed the winner that handed the Dons a 2-1 win at Tannadice to keep them in third place in the Scottish Premiership, two points behind Motherwell.
McInnes said: "I thought it was just that Peter scored the winner because I thought he was outstanding today.
"He took a lot of treatment, he had a few clatters going in on him. It's just reward that he's the one that comes up with the winner.
"I want him to be known for being a top player, a player who makes the difference in games, a player who scores goals and affects games in a positive way. He has the pace and movement and the biggest thing is his intelligence to create space."
United have now followed their six-game winning streak with three straight defeats.
But Aberdeen continue to impress and are hot on the heels of Motherwell as the race for second spot hots up.
"I'm delighted to have won that game," added McInnes.
"We deserved it but I was worried we may have run out of time. We kept knocking on the door and our desire and fitness levels got us through."
A sell-out 14,000-strong crowd turned out to see a hotly anticipated match between two of the most talked-about teams in the country.
But lousy weather conditions and a sense of nerves shared by both sides rendered the first 45 minutes an ugly spectacle.
However, United got the first break five minutes into the second half when Mark Wilson swung in a menacing corner which goalkeeper Jamie Langfield failed to read. As he missed with a punch, he left his goal gaping and John Souttar was able to head home the opener.
Aberdeen levelled 15 minutes later though as referee Willie Collum ruled United left-back Andrew Robertson had used an arm in his own box when Barry Robson's through-ball skipped up off the turf and hit his armpit.
Robson blasted home the penalty and insult was added to Arabs injury when Pawlett stooped low to head home a late winner after Radoslaw Cierzniak - the hitherto impressive United goalkeeper - allowed Robson's free-kick to spill from his grasp.
United boss Jackie McNamara refused to criticise Collum for the decision which handed Aberdeen a lifeline.
He said: "I spoke to Andrew and he thinks the ball hit him on the chest but the referee made the decision quickly. Sometimes they go for you and other times they don't.
"We're disappointed because it was a frustrating way to finish the match. There wasn't much quality in the game, it was a lot of free-kicks and stop-start all the time.
"I thought it would be someone's mistake which would decide the game.
"We maybe didn't deserve to score and go in front when we did but there wasn't a lot of quality in the game.
"We've now lost three in a row but I wouldn't say it was a concern, the last two games were different altogether because we were down to 10 men against St Mirren and St Johnstone
"I was disappointed with some of our passing today. We handled most of the pressure Aberdeen put on us but it was a poor game."