WINNIPEG - First-line scoring hasn't been a problem for the Winnipeg Jets; offensive production from the second and third lines has been another matter. But through two games, the Jets' second and third lines - not the first line of Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler -- are carrying the team's offensive load.
Winnipeg opened its home schedule Friday night by beating the Los Angeles Kings 5-3 at MTS Centre thanks to four unanswered goals from its second and third lines. Evander Kane and Olli Jokinen each scored before Kane's linemate, Devin Setoguchi, scored two power-play goals early in the third period to send Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick to the bench with 14:41 remaining.
"It's not just us two," Setoguchi said of himself and Kane. "[Center Mark Scheifele] is in the middle of it. But there is still a lot of room for improvement. It's going to be nice to get familiar with each other."
"It feels good to score at home," Setoguchi said, "but the main thing is we won the game. And we beat a real good hockey club. We played our game after the first period, and we've got to do that right off the bat."
Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff added wingers Setoguchi and Michael Frolik in offseason trades, and the Jets were depending on a rookie in Scheifele to be able to handle at least a third-line role this season. Cheveldayoff and coach Claude Noel also needed Jokinen to regain his 2011-12 form after he dropped to seven goals last season.
Three nights earlier, the Jets opened their season with a 5-4 road win against the Edmonton that included two goals from Frolik and one from Scheifele. Back on home ice, the Kane-Scheifele-Setoguchi line bolstered the Jets.
Los Angeles also presented the Jets with an opportunity to see one of the League's most elite defensive teams up close. Noel thought the Jets met that challenge, something that his team struggled with for much of the past two seasons.
"The game was very heavy, especially early," Noel said. "They're a heavy team, and you can see why they've had success. We have not learned how to win and get in the playoffs yet," Noel continued. "So we're learning to do the things necessary to get in. The one thing that teams that have success do is that they play heavy on pucks. I thought that we saw that."
The Kings had a 25-12 advantage in shots near the game's midpoint before the Jets' early physical play helped them gain control, taking 18 of the next 21 shots and scoring three times to break open a 1-1 game. Winnipeg survived the Kings' third-period rally to win their home opener for the first time in three tries since the franchise moved from Atlanta for the 2011-12 season.
"We got to the body early," Kane said, "and against a team like L.A., that is a heavy team. You have to let them know you're not going to be run out of your own building."
Los Angeles rallied after falling behind 4-1. Jeff Carter scored a power-play goal with nine minutes remaining, and Justin Williams made it a one-goal game when he slammed the rebound of Matt Frattin's shot past Pavelec with 4:16 to play for a second power-play goal. But holding a late 4-3 lead, the Jets held off a late Los Angeles push before Little's empty-net goal.
"It's a little frustrating being close and feeling a comeback, but not getting it done," Williams said. "I think it was a balance thing. We got weaker and they slowly got stronger as the game went on. They pushed the tempo in the second period in response to the first period, and they got it done. They were just better."
Los Angeles split a two-game trip through the Central Division that opened the season and will return to the West Coast to host the New York Rangers on Monday night.
"Two points," Kings coach Darryl Sutter replied when asked what he was taking from the first two games.
More important to Noel was an opportunity to measure his team against one of the NHL's elite opponents. Facing the Kings represented a significant test for the Jets, who have made attention to defensively responsible play a dominant theme for this season.
"From [a defensive] standpoint, it was a good test for us," Noel said, "because we had an opportunity to see [whether] we could play a tight-checking game. And the game was very tight there."
"For me, I thought that our guys proved that we can play that way. It's going to take a lot of work, but I thought we did that for two periods."
Matt Greene's unassisted goal 14:17 into the game put the Kings ahead, but Kane tied it 88 seconds later.
The Kings, who won 21 of the 26 games in which they scored first last season, third-best in the League, grabbed the lead when Greene scooped up Dustin Byfuglien's defensive-zone turnover and ripped a long shot from just inside the blue line that sailed over Pavelec's right shoulder with Mike Richards providing a screen.
Kane countered when he broke into the Los Angeles zone and zipped a long wrist shot that snuck past Quick. Jokinen's 300th NHL goal came at 12:54 of the middle period and broke the 1-1 tie. Jokinen settled Frolik's rebound and slid a right-circle shot under Quick.
Kane danced into the slot before snapping a rising shot that Setoguchi tipped 2:22 into the third to put the Kings in a two-goal hole. Setoguchi stuffed a wraparound inside Quick's right post 2:57 later for a 4-1 lead.