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Kings make it six in a row with win against Jets

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG -- Los Angeles Kings forward Milan Lucic said a poor start served as the jolt needed to force his team to face reality three games into the season.

Since then, the Kings have excelled and Lucic helped extend their winning streak to six games on a third-period goal with 4:41 remaining in a 4-1 victory against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre on Tuesday.

"It's a lot more fun playing this way, working hard and getting results than it is cheating like we were in the first three games," Lucic said of the Kings, who were outscored 12-2 in losing their first three games this season.

After that start, the Kings (6-3-0) are 3-0-0 on the road for the second time in their history. The win wrapped up a two-game Canadian road trip for Los Angeles, which will play six of its next eight games at home.

On his game-winning goal, Lucic beat Winnipeg defenseman Tyler Myers to the net before finishing a 2-on-1 rush started by Tyler Toffoli and Jeff Carter, redirecting Toffoli's centering pass behind Winnipeg goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.

"I was going to shoot it, but I saw [Winnipeg defenseman Ben Chiarot's] stick there and figured that if I was going to shoot it, it was going to get tipped or blocked," said Toffoli, who is second in the NHL with seven goals. "I knew Lucic was going to the back post, and I just threw it there."

The Lucic-Carter-Toffoli line continues to be one of the hottest in the League. Lucic's goal extended his points streak to four games (two goals, three assists). Carter has three goals and four assists in his past four games.

Toffoli and Trevor Lewis each scored an empty-net goal in the final minute. Jake Muzzin scored and Carter and Drew Doughty each had two assists for the Kings, who outshot the Jets 14-5 in the third period.

Jets (5-3-1) rookie Nikolaj Ehlers scored for the third consecutive game.

"They were better at what they're good at and got better in the game at what they're good at," Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. "They stayed with it, and we saw more of it halfway through. We invited some of it in the second period, some of the things that we did with the puck through the neutral zone. They controlled the flow of the game in the third period."

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick made 24 saves. He has allowed three goals in his past three starts. Pavelec had 28 saves for Winnipeg.

The Kings expected an aggressive start from the Jets, and they received one. But Los Angeles survived the early push from Winnipeg and a 1-0 deficit in the second period.

"Road games are tough, no matter where you are, especially coming into this barn," Muzzin said. "It's a tough place to play, especially early. They come out hard. It feels like you have no space, no time, because they're so aggressive."

Ehlers' fourth goal gave the Jets a 1-0 lead 8:45 into the second period. The 19-year-old, who was the ninth pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, has a four-game points streak (three goals, one assist) and a point in seven of his past eight games. Muzzin's first goal, the first by a Kings defenseman this season, came with 4:10 left in the second period and tied the game.

"There were some spurts in the game where we got away from keeping it simple," Myers said. "We need to focus on chipping pucks in and getting on bodies a little bit more in certain times. I thought we did a lot of good things. But [there are] definitely some things to look at."

Kings coach Darryl Sutter pointed to the arrival of Lucic, who came to Los Angeles in an offseason trade with the Boston Bruins, as a key addition.

"[Lucic] has been awesome," Sutter said. "His work ethic, his [being coachable], his practice habits … he's a good example for our players. All he has done is win."

Lucic admitted that the rocky start forced some soul-searching inside the Los Angeles dressing room.

"The first three games, it was almost like we were a deer in the headlights," Lucic said. "The season kind of caught us by surprise, and we thought it was going to be easier than it was. I think that once we got back to the drawing board and really took a look at ourselves as individuals and as a team, and asked ourselves whether we were really committed to playing the right way. That was the big question. From goaltending out, the commitment, the work, all 20 guys playing 60 minutes, has gone up to the level that we needed it to [in order] to get wins.

"To me, this is one of the toughest buildings to play in, and they're a team that plays really well here at home. For us to come here and play the way that we did, I think it shows how well we've been able to transfer our game to the right direction to start getting wins."

Learning to match the Kings' experience is still a work in progress in Winnipeg. The Jets are 2-2-1 on a six-game homestand that ends Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

"You're going to see more and more [close-checking] hockey like this, and we'll get better at it, better at playing that style of game, generating offense from it," Maurice said. "Just more confidence in what we're good at and having some patience in the game with the puck. [Los Angeles has] got a lot of players that have had success doing exactly what they did [Tuesday], and they're very comfortable staying with it."

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