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They say good things happen to nice people.
The Winnipeg Jets would certainly agree with that as they were practically choir boys on ice Tuesday night, mostly avoiding the sins of their very recent past on the way to a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in their home opener at Bell MTS Place.
Winnipeg improves to 2-1-0, while Los Angeles falls to 1-1-1.
It was a much-needed behavioural change for the Jets, who showed off their naughty side in splitting the first two games of the regular-season. Winnipeg was shorthanded a whopping nine times in St. Louis and Dallas, surrendering three power play goals along the way. That’s not exactly a formula for sustained success.
And while Tuesday’s game against Los Angeles had plenty of physical play, Winnipeg managed to keep its emotions in check, save for a couple minor misdeeds in the third period. Fortunately for Mark Scheifele (delay of game for puck over the glass) and Tyler Myers (careless high-stick), their teammates bailed them out by killing off both infractions
Winnipeg dominated five-on-five play for large stretches, while earning three power plays of their own simply by moving their feet, controlling the puck and keeping the Kings at bay.
And it paid off, as Kyle Connor scored the game-winner in the second period while his team had the man-advantage. It’s the third goal in as many games for the sophomore winger.
Ilya Kovalchuk got the visitors on the board just over six minutes into the game, getting behind the Winnipeg defence and deflecting a perfect Drew Doughty pass past Connor Hellebuyck on their first shot of the game. It was the first goal in five years for Kovalchuk, who returned to North America after playing in the KHL.
Scheifele tied it a few minutes later, converting a nifty feed from Brandon Tanev. Josh Morrissey paid the price to get the play started, absorbing a heavy hit from Jeff Carter to get the puck to Tanev, who had jumped on the ice seconds earlier for Scheifele’s usual wing-man in Blake Wheeler.
It was the first goal of the season for Scheifele.
Los Angeles is without No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick, who’s out week-to-week with a lower-body injury. But they can’t blame their goaltending for Tuesday’s loss. Jack Campbell was sensational in stopping 37 of 39 shots he faced.
Hellebuyck had a much quieter night, facing just 17 shots. That was a dramatic decrease in his workload, as opponents fired 77 shots on Hellebuyck in the first two games.
This was jut the kind of start the Jets were looking for when it comes to home cooking. Winnipeg made Bell MTS Place a house of horrors for visitors last year, going 32-7-2 in their own barn. It was a huge reason for their overall success.
The Jets now hit the road for a quick one-game trip to Nashville, facing the Predators on Thursday night. Then it’s back to Winnipeg for a season-long six-game homestand starting Sunday against Carolina.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.