Winnipeg Jets: Kings Rule Special Teams, Beat Jets 4-3

WINNIPEG, MB - FEBRUARY 20: Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck
WINNIPEG, MB - FEBRUARY 20: Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck /

The Winnipeg Jets hosted the Los Angeles Kings at Bell MTS Place Tuesday night.  There was no noblesse oblige shown as it was a playoff-style tight physical game.  If you wanted a preview of what the Jets could look forward to in the postseason, this was a good taste.

The Winnipeg Jets lost their chance to keep pace with Nashville for the central division lead once again. The Predators would win against the Red Wings and the Kings would capitalize on their chances against the Jets. Thus leaving Winnipeg 2 points back of the central division crown. Darcy Kuemper would be the surprise start for LA and it would prove to be a good decision by John Stevens.

Back and Forth

Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler opened the scoring with a blistering shot from the right circle.
WINNIPEG, MB – FEBRUARY 20: Blake Wheeler /

Blake Wheeler continued his amazing play opening the games scoring in the 1st on a 5 on 3 with a blistering shot from the right circle that beat Kuemper cleanly. Alec Martinex tied it up on the PP in the 2nd with a long shot from the point that was screened by Tanner Pearson. The Kings would continue their special teams’ success with Dion Phaneuf‘s 3rd as a King on LA’s 3rd PP. Dustin Byfuglien‘s bomb from the blue line  tied it up at 2 heading into the second intermission.

Torrey Mitchell regained the lead for the Kings in the 3rd off a rebound bouncing around the traffic in front of the goaltender. Brown would break the see-saw battle with LA’s 4th of the night off a shot from the slot through Connor Hellebuyck’s five-hole. Patrik Laine would net a 3rd for Winnipeg in the last few minutes from a 5 on 3 with their net empty. But the Kings would jam the puck along the boards and kill the clock to seal the win. The Kings two 3rd period goals give Los Angeles 76 for the season so far. That’s a +35 3rd-period differential, good enough for tops in the NHL.

What Went Wrong

A one-goal loss is not an embarrassing one. But the fact that it was tough, fast, playoff style hockey showed that the Jets still have some work to do before establishing themselves as part of the NHL’s elite. In this loss Winnipeg failed in three key areas:

Uncharacteristically Undisciplined

The Winnipeg Jets Dustin Byfuglien laughs with a referee. It would not last long.
WINNIPEG, MB – FEBRUARY 20: Dustin Byfuglien /

The Winnipeg Jets are not known as a team that takes a lot of penalties. Surprisingly, they have 202 power-play-opportunities-against which puts them at 7th most in the NHL. That’s not good. However, it’s usually not an issue as the Jets tend to be disciplined and not commit penalties at bad times or in bunches. Well, they did Tuesday night against the Kings who made them pay for it. The Kings got 2 power play goals and almost made it 3. Their 4th goal by Dustin Brown came seconds after LA’s 5th power play ended. Both teams would give up 5 PP chances, but the calls against the Jets just seemed to always be ill-timed, killing momentum.

Kings of the Slot

Los Angeles claimed the ice in front of Hellebuyck all night long and camped there. It was their’s, Hellebuyck was just trespassing. Two of their four goals were obtained directly due to their net-front presence. You could argue that Pearson’s screen could also count as a third. Winnipeg knew coming into this game that the Kings were known for this and still could not clear out the slot in front of their goaltender. The defense also failed to give their goaltender a clear view of shots and did not clean out forwards encroaching for rebounds. This has to be addressed for the Jets to be successful in April.

Not-So-Special Teams

While both teams went 2/5 on the PP. Both Winnipeg scores came from 5 on 3’s on the games first and last goals. The PP and PK did not come through when needed most. LA had good PP zone time and was allowed to keep momentum throughout the 2nd and 3rd periods. Meanwhile, the Jets could not convert on their own 5 on 4 and 4 on 4 opportunities. The Kings were able to use their special teams’ success to control momentum and dictate the game’s pace.

Whiteout’s Three Stars of the Game

Darcy Kuemper – Kuemper had to be good. He kept the King’s in the game during the Jets onslaught in the 1st. Then was then able to hold down the fort in the 2nd and 3rd as he got goal support. Good game by the backup.

Connor Hellebuyck – Connor was tested early and often. He had traffic in front all night long and did not get a whole lot of center clearing help from his team in front of him. He had trouble seeing around the big bodies in front and really did not have much of a chance on LA’s 4 goals. Hopefully, this was a good learning experience for the young netminder. Top tier goalies need to learn how to deal with net front traffic.

Next: Winnipeg Jets: Under the Radar Trade Options

Dustin Byfuglien – The big man came to play for the Winnipeg Jets last night. He was active in the offense all night and fired enough heavy shots toward Kuemper to give him nightmares for days. One eventually managed to land on the net for a goal! However, he could also be given a black eye for this game due to his two penalties. It was nice to see the big guy active and involved again. Let see if he can keep it going through the last quarter of the regular season and into the playoffs.