Once again, the Winnipeg Jets inability to kill a penalty proved costly.
This time, it was a Carl Dahlstrom holding minor that quickly came back to bite them. Anze Kopitar scored on the ensuing power play with 14:08 left in the third period, snapping a tie and leading the Los Angeles Kings to a 3-2 victory Tuesday night at Bell MTS Place.
Winnipeg, which was coming off a 1-0 shootout victory over Edmonton, falls to 5-6-0 on the season. Los Angeles improves to 4-5-0.
Winnipeg’s woeful special teams have been a major story early in the season, and this game was no different. The Jets went 0-for-5 on their power play, then surrendered the game-winner while down a man.
The Jets essentially got what they deserved, putting in a dreadful performance aside from goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.
Winnipeg apparently missed the memo that this one started at 7 p.m., as they were sluggish through most of the opening period. A pair of early penalties, to Ville Heinola and Kyle Connor, put the NHL’s worst penalty killing to the test, and they managed to survive unscathed, thanks mainly to Hellebuyck.
Once back to five-on-five, the Kings continued to dominate play and finally got rewarded just past the midway mark. Austin Wagner buried a rebound after Hellebuyck was impeded in his crease by teammate Dmitry Kulikov, whose stick got under his mask.
At that point, the shots were 15-2 for the visitors.
The early siege continued, as Hellebuyck robbed Jeff Carter on the doorstep as his teammates were asleep at the wheel. At one point, the shots had climbed to 20-3 with just under five minutes left in the frame.
It was so one-sided that fans at Bell MTS Place even gave a Bronx Cheer when Neal Pionk threw a harmless wrister on net with just over three minutes to play.
Just a few seconds later, the Jets caught a break when the Kings coughed up the puck o in their own end and Connor snapped a shot past Jonathan Quick. The goal, at 17:07 of the period, snapped a drought of 255 minutes and 20 seconds in which the Jets had failed to score a five-on-five goal.
Connor’s fourth of the year was assisted by Bryan Little and Nikolaj Ehlers.
You’d think surviving such an ugly start would have brought a renewed focus for the second period. But you’d be wrong, as the Jets continued to be half a step behind their opponent.
Case in point: A wild sequence in which Winnipeg surrendered a breakaway which Hellebuyck stopped, followed by what appeared to be a highlight-reel pad save. As play continued, the horn inside the arena sounded and brought play to a halt — a sure sign the NHL was on the line from Toronto with something to say.
Sure enough, replays showed the puck fired by Kurtis MacDermid had just crossed the goal-line 51 seconds earlier, and the Kings were back out in front 4:16 into the period.
They say desperate times call for desperate measures. And so, with his team under siege, coach Paul Maurice did something rarely seen around these parts: He broke up Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler.
And you know what? It actually worked.
Ehlers, elevated to the top line in Wheeler’s place, scored on a nifty deflection at 12:26 of the period to get the Jets back on even terms with a Kings squad that had badly outplayed them to that point.
Ehlers’ goal, his fifth of the year, came off a point shot from Neal Pionk, who’s now up to seven points on the year. 18-year-o;d Ville Heinola, playing in his eighth NHL game, had the other helper and is now up to five points.
Shots were 32-17 for the Kings through 40 minutes.
The only difference in a fairly even final period was Kopitar’s power play goal, which proved to be the dagger.
The Jets got one final chance with Jeff Carter in the box for tripping Laine with 57 seconds in the period, but once again the power play couldn’t produce, finishing 0-for-5 on the night.
Quick finished with 26 saves. Hellebuyck was the hard-luck loser despite making 38 saves.
Winnipeg is now just 2-4-0 at Bell MTS Place this year, and 2-10-0 in the past dozen home games dating back to last season. Perhaps a change of scenery for a home game is needed: They’ll play host to the Calgary Flames on Saturday night at Mosaic Stadium in Regina as part of the Heritage Classic.
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.
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