WINNIPEG – As Head Coach Paul Maurice put it post-game, the visitors “controlled the flow of the game in the third period.”
That was enough – the difference in an otherwise close contest Tuesday at MTS Centre.
Milan Lucic broke a 1-1 tie with 4:41 left, while Tyler Toffoli and Trevor Lewis added a pair of empty-netters late as the Los Angeles Kings handed the Winnipeg Jets a 4-1 loss.
Lucic converted a pass from Toffoli, who faked a shot off the rush, then delivered a feed across the box, leaving little chance for Ondrej Pavelec.
Jake Muzzin scored the other goal for the Kings.
Nikolaj Ehlers had the lone goal for the Jets, while Pavelec made 28 saves.
“I think they were better at what they’re good at and they got better at what they’re good at,” Maurice said. “They stayed with it and we saw more of it about halfway through. I think we invited some of it in the second period with some of the things we did with the puck through the neutral zone. They weren’t making any plays off the rush. They were getting pucks in deep and getting in on the forecheck. We were spending energy at that point trying to break pucks out. We had a few offensive shifts but not enough to sustain.
“They owned the third period.”
The winning goal went off the stick of Tyler Myers before arriving at the feet of the Kings forward.
“An unfortunate bounce, but that’s the way it goes,” Myers said.
Ehlers opened the scoring at 9:45 of the second period. Stringing the puck to the middle of the ice, the rookie fired a shot through traffic, beating Jonathan Quick short side for his third goal in as many games.
Ehlers was all over the ice in the first period as well, recording a team-leading three shot attempts – including one off the iron five-and-a-half minutes in.
LA levelled the score at 15:50 as Muzzin wired a shot through the towering screen of Lucic.
Undeterred, the Jets applied pressure in the final few minutes and nearly regained the lead. Myers – all 6-foot-8 of him – took it upon himself down low, walking to the blue paint and nearly depositing his own rebound, but Quick came up with an incredible stop, stretching out and smothering the puck in tight.
“I thought (the effort) was pretty good,” Myers said. “There were some spurts in the game where we got away from keeping it simple the way we’d like to. We need to focus on chipping pucks in and getting on the body, at certain times. I thought our first period was very good, but definitely some things to look at.”
Pavelec was equally strong at the other end, with the best of his 28 saves coming midway through the third. Standing tall at the top of the blue paint, he stole a sure goal from Marian Gaborik, who unloaded between the dots.
“That was a tight game,” Stafford said. “We knew that the goal that was going to put it forward was going to be a greasy one. We had a couple good chances in the third – myself, I had a great chance in the slot and I missed the net – and could have put us up. In a game like that, against a team like that, that plays a very suffocating game, we needed to grind it out more and we just didn’t do that.”
Toffoli and Lewis put this one to bed with a pair of empty-netters 33 seconds apart in the final minute.
“We’ve had some success coming through the neutral zone, making some plays and scoring some goals off straight rushes,” Maurice said. “They’re very, very good at not allowing that. It’s not one that’s fun to make. … We struggled with that a little bit tonight. In the second half of the second period, there were four turnovers that we didn’t need to make.”
The Jets wrap up the home stand Thursday night against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Puck drop is at 7:00pm CT and you can catch it live on TSN3.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com