The Winnipeg Jets began the first game of the rest of their season on Thursday night, facing an L.A. Kings team that was second-hottest only to the Jets themselves. The Jets squandered away a terrific game from their goaltender, and the Kings took control late in the game, beating the Jets for the first time in three years, 3-1.
Coming into the game, many stats favored the Jets: 2-0 against L.A. since moving to Winnipeg, and held a solid 9-4-1 record against the Kings’ Pacific Division, while L.A. could only manage a 7-9-2 record when facing the Central Division.
The Jets held the Kings to only three shots in the first 10 minutes, thanks to some gutsy shot blocking by the newly re-signed Mark Stuart, who had four blocks halfway through the period. Winnipeg killed off the only power-play of the first period, after Andrew Ladd took a Boarding penalty half-way through. The Kings and Jets finished the first period scoreless after an intense defensive battle. The shot clock read 11-7 Los Angeles, but chances were unofficially even at 3 each.
After the defensive war that was the first period, both teams broke out in the following frame. Olli Jokinen kicked off the scoring with his 15th of the season after leaky defensive coverage for a 1-0 lead. Dustin Brown nullified the Jets’ goal with his 12th just 42 seconds later, and nearby Kenora, Ontario native Mike Richards blasted a knuckle-puck by Ondrej Pavelec for a 2-1 Kings lead after a huge turnover courtesy of Toby Enstrom. Evander Kane equaled Ladd’s terrible penalty in the first by taking one of his own, but the Jets’ PK held strong. Shots in the second were 10-6 Kings.
The Kings were 18-0-0 when leading after two periods, and in the third, they showed the Jets why. Los Angeles put 20 shots on goal in the third, a far cry from Winnipeg’s five. The Kings equaled the Jets’ shot total from the entire period on one power-play, with five shots on a Devin Setoguchi tripping call. On the heels of a Blake Wheeler high-sticking penalty, Alec Martinez ripped a high-blocker shot to stick the dagger in the Jets’ heart, giving the Kings a 3-1 lead. The Jets couldn’t get anything going with the extra attacker, and the Kings took away a 3-1 win.
The loss is the second straight for the Jets, the first time that has happened under Paul Maurice. On the other end, the Kings are on a 6-game win streak.
The shots were once 7-3 Winnipeg, but the Kings took over after, and the game finished 41-18 in Los Angeles’ favour.
Drew Doughty plated a tremendous game for the Kings, with 24:49 of TOI, two shots, and 6 hits. Doughty and Evander Kane had a terrific battle all game, with each player registering four hits on the other.
Marian Gaborik had 3 shots and a -1 rating in 16:38 of ice time in his first game as a King. Gaborik was acquired by the Kings on Wednesday at the Trade Deadline.
Fans won’t be looking at goaltender Ondrej Pavelec to lay blame, who made 38 saves for a .927% save percentage. Pavelec earned the game’s First Star award for the third time in the last seven games. At the other end, former Conn Smythe trophy winner Jonathan Quick had a light workload, making 17 saves for his fifth straight win.
The win is the Kings’ first against the Jets in three tries since the franchise moved from Atlanta: The Jets won back in 2011, and on October 4th of 2013, both at the MTS Centre.
The Jets won’t have to wait long to get their revenge: the teams meet again on March 29th in Los Angeles. Winnipeg faces the Ottawa Senators at home on Saturday, while the Kings go for seven straight wins on Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers.
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