LOS ANGELES — Consistency is easy to talk about but not so easy to achieve, as the Winnipeg Jets continue to prove.
These confounding Jets are up and down like a toilet seat at a mixed party, as my old English neighbour used to say about his wife’s affections when things got frosty around his homestead.
The Jets skated like world-beaters on Thursday in a win over the San Jose Sharks but Saturday night in Los Angeles they looked star-struck as the Kings crowned them 4-2 at Staples Center. The first period was among the worst the team has played all season — certainly under the stewardship of coach Paul Maurice.
Goalie Ondrej Pavelec, in his first game back after missing six straight with a lower body injury, was dreadful, allowing three suspect goals in the first period on 16 shots.
But don’t stop looking there, as the rest of the Jets were just as bad. They stood around and watched the Kings dance, giving L.A. great looks at the net, resulting in scoring chances that became goals.
Anze Kopitar scored a pair for the Kings in the opening frame while Trevor Lewis also beat Pavelec before Maurice gave him the hook during intermission.
The teams did a deadlock waltz in the second frame, but scoring returned in the final 20 minutes with Matt Halischuk and Blake Wheeler getting shots past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and Tyler Toffoli beating Al Montoya.
Maurice has done a lot of good things for the Jets in his short time here, but getting consistent play remains his biggest challenge.
"There’s the learning lesson in this game. How do you wind yourself back up to compete as hard as we need to in order to be in this one against a team like this?" said Maurice. "That’s what our focus will be going into the next one.
"It’s about routines. What your morning skates are supposed to look like. What your practices are supposed to look like and what your games are supposed to look like. It’s trying to get your energy right. We have to work every day. Every day."
The coach says
"We were taught a real good lesson in the first period about being ready to play a hard game. We gave them so much ice to play with and were backing up. When you play the game to not make a mistake you’re going to get beat like that everyday," said Maurice.
"For the other two periods we played as hard as we possibly could. Some nights your hands are going to be with you and some nights they’re not. When you play that hard you have a chance. But we were looking for a smoother way to play that first period and it just wasn’t going to be there."
Don’t blame the goalies
All four goals scored on the Jets goalies were soft, but Maurice refused to hang the loss on his netminders.
"I understand how it looked in the first period, but I’m not putting this game on the goaltenders," said Maurice. "The goalies were as good as the rest of the hockey club. We’re not saying we need some saves to get us going. Shame on us. It’s a 20-man group. Can our goalies be better? Yes. But that first period wasn’t a goalie issue. We didn’t come out and our goalie put us in a hole. That puck dropped and (the Kings) came out flying. Regardless of how the puck crossed the line, it’s on all of us."
Jets leader Andrew Ladd saw the game as one terrible period followed by two good frames.
"That wasn’t the first period we wanted. On our heels and giving them too much time and space. You give a team like that a three-goal lead they’re licking their chops," he said. "We need to be more consistent in our approach, whether it’s the day we’re off or the morning of the game, so we’re ready to go when the game starts."