LOS ANGELES -- It had been 18 years since the Winnipeg Jets played in Los Angeles. Judging by Saturday night, they might want to wait a while before their next visit.
The Los Angeles Kings continued their deliberate spring by beating Winnipeg 4-2 at Staples Center. Anze Kopitar scored his 23rd and 24th goals in the first period for the Kings, winners of six straight and 14 of 17.
Los Angeles is all but locked into third place in the Pacific Division, yet it continues to sharpen its game and not get complacent.
"This time of the year, you want to work on your game," Kopitar said. "You want to sharpen the game up as much as you can and get ready for the playoffs. The story to the games leading up to the playoffs has been important to all the teams … somebody's trying to get ready, somebody's trying to just fight for the playoff position. It's a good intensity out there. It's a pretty good indication what playoff hockey is going to be all about. We certainly have to get ready ourselves."
The Kings usually churn out one-goal games, but they gave goalie Jonathan Quick an unusual early 3-0 cushion and forced Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec from the net after 20 minutes. The Jets made their first appearance at Staples Center since the franchise moved from Atlanta for the 2011-12 season; they last played here representing Winnipeg in 1996 before the original Jets moved to become the Phoenix Coyotes.
The current version of the Jets lost for the fifth time in eight games.
Kopitar's goals were a combination of deft hands, puck luck and poor play by Winnipeg in its own zone. Kopitar had the puck go in off his legs at 7:53 of the first when he followed Marian Gaborik's shot. Jets defenseman Mark Stuart had his stick flung into Pavelec a moment before Pavelec could move to his right to stop Kopitar.
Kopitar flicked in a backhand at 17:37 of the first for a 3-0 lead after Gaborik tipped Willie Mitchell's shot after the Kings controlled play in the Jets' end.
"It was nice to get them out of the way quick," Kopitar said. "I thought, as a team, the first period was pretty good. It turned out to be the key to the game: a good start. We got three fairly quick and took it in pretty nicely the rest of the way."
It was a tough start for Pavelec, who returned after missing six games with a lower-body injury. He allowed three goals on 16 shots, and Al Montoya replaced him to start the second period.
Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said he "did some math on 16 shots" in deciding to pull Pavelec. Maurice defended his goalies and said the start was a team issue.
"I understand how it looked in the first period," Maurice said. "I'm not putting that one on the goaltenders' feet. I'm not saying they weren't responsible for the pucks. They were as good as we were the rest of the hockey [game]. We're not sitting there saying 'We need some saves to get us going.' Shame on us. It's a 20-man group out there. Can our goalies be better in tonight's game? Yes. But no more so. That wasn't a goalie's issue that period."
Trevor Lewis began the three-goal opening period with a quick shot from the left side that beat Pavelec at 2:42. Lewis, who went 28 games without a point to start the season and 38 games without scoring a goal, recorded a career-high sixth goal.
Tyler Toffoli made it 4-1 on a wrist shot that beat Montoya on a 2-on-1 at 4:59 of the third.
Winnipeg didn't come back with a second-period push. It went more than 10 minutes without a shot on goal to start the second and had a total of four shots for the period. Matt Halischuk broke the shutout 1:54 into the third when he banged inEvander Kane's pass from the corner to make it 3-1. Blake Wheeler sped past Slava Voynov and beat Quick for his 26th goal on a power play at 8:56 of the third.
Quick made a remarkable save on Wheeler in the final minute when he raised his right leg while prone.
"I lost my footing a little bit, and then the puck went to the side," Quick said. "I can't remember who took a shot from the corner. I was just trying to get coverage. Luckily it hit my skate. I don't know if it was going in. It might have been wide."
Wheeler said "there was no explanation" for not matching the Kings' energy at the start and said they certainly knew what a difficult team the Kings are to rally against.
"You spot them three, that's tough," Wheeler said. "That's what they do. They're made to win low-scoring games, 1-0 games. You get behind, you're putting yourself at a really big disadvantage."
Winnipeg scratched right wing Devin Setoguchi for the second straight game. Jets defenseman Zack Bogosian missed a third straight game because of a lower-body injury.
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