Class of 2015 line leading the way

Harkins, Appleton and Roslovic combine for pair of goals for second straight game

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Leave it to those energetic kids to wake the older folks up from their slumber. 

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This article was published 18/02/2020 (914 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Leave it to those energetic kids to wake the older folks up from their slumber. 

The fresh-faced trio of Jack Roslovic, Mason Appleton and Jansen Harkins — all selected in the 2015 draft — made plenty of noise for a second straight game Tuesday as the Winnipeg Jets rallied from an early deficit for a 6-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings at Bell MTS Place.

Head coach Paul Maurice put the line together prior to Sunday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, and they combined for a pair of goals in a 3-2 victory. They struck for the first two tallies in this one, with Harkins and Appleton scoring and Roslovic adding two assists. 

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade Winnipeg Jets' Mason Appleton celebrates his goal with teammates on the bench during the second period against the Los Angeles Kings, in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

“Their whole game is really good. Yeah, they’re scoring goals, so we’re certainly excited about it. But they’re playing at a different level. Three guys, they’re not deferring to each other, they’re not playing with a veteran guy where they feel they gotta get him the puck. They’re just playing the game of hockey as fast as they can and lots of good things are coming from it,” said Maurice.

Winnipeg improves to 31-25-5, just one point out of a playoff spot with 21 regular-season games remaining. They avenge a pair of earlier losses this season to Los Angeles, which occupies the Western Conference basement at 21-34-5 and is in full sell mode right now. Goalie Jack Campbell and forwards Tyler Toffoli and Kyle Clifford have already been traded, while defenceman Alec Martinez was held out of the game as he’s expected to be moved as early as today.

Still, it looked like the Jets might have been in line for another tough night against the lowly Kings after veteran Dustin Brown opened the scoring just 35 seconds into the game, chipping a rebound past goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. This continues a troubling trend for the Jets, who have given up the first goal in five straight games.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade Winnipeg Jets' Mason Appleton), Jansen Harkins and Jack Roslovic celebrate a goal during second period action against the Los Angeles Kings, in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

But the “Class of 2015” line began to turn the tide late in the first period, as a good cycle deep in the Kings’ end began to tilt the ice in Winnipeg’s favour. The trio broke through with the equalizer at 13:13 of the second period, as Harkins one-timed a feed from Patrik Laine, who had changed for Appleton. Roslovic got the play started, and Harkins finished it for his second NHL goal. 

“What (Roslovic) is doing through the neutral zone now is really improved. He’s been really good through the neutral zone with the puck, just driving in straight lines. He’s a powerful skater with good hands. He’s not slowing down to make another play that gets knocked down. But you know what else? He blocks the shot on the goal that he drives up the ice. So their D-zone coverage has been really good. Their whole game is really good,” said Maurice.

The line came through again at 17:05, as Roslovic fed Appleton on the rush for his fifth of the season. Maurice admitted the line’s strong play played a factor in another key coaching decision during the middle frame — namely reuniting Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele after a few months spent apart centring different lines.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade Winnipeg Jets' Patrik Laine and Los Angeles Kings' Dustin Brown collide with linesman Brad Kovachik in the first period.

The dynamic duo teamed up for the 3-1 goal at 18:33, as Nikolaj Ehlers fed Scheifele, who found Wheeler for the easy tap-in.

“You’re watching that back-door goal thinking ‘Man I haven’t seen that in a while.’ That felt good,” said Maurice, who shifted Andrew Copp back to centre on the second line with Laine and Kyle Connor.  

Nothing has come easy for the Jets this season, so the collar got a little tighter as Martin Frk scored on a wraparound just 1:12 into the third period. But the top unit responded at 5:49 as Ehlers finished off a passing play with Scheifele and Wheeler for his 21st of the season and the game-winner.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade Los Angeles Kings goaltender Calvin Petersen makes a save on Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler during the first period.

“Those two guys, they know how to play together. They know each other really well on and off the ice and that creates something pretty special out there,” said Ehlers.

Brown got his second of the game on a deflection with just over four minutes remaining, but Laine squashed any hopes of a comeback with his 25th of the season, into an empty net. Wheeler added his second of the game, and 20th of 2019-20, at 18:31 when he tipped a Neal Pionk point shot past Kings goalie Cal Petersen. 

Maurice suggested he will leave Wheeler and Scheifele together for the time being, citing the strong play of the Roslovic line as giving comfort to do that.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade Los Angeles Kings' Dustin Brown scores the first goal of the game on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck during the first period.

That’s music to the ears of the captain.

“You know I love playing with Scheif, and I think the feeling’s mutual. It’s like riding a bike,” said Wheeler.

“Selfishly, you want to play with the guys that bring out the best in you, and vice versa. With the circumstances of the season, we don’t really have that luxury. It’s just about filling in and doing the best you can and trying to plug in any holes that might come up. Obviously it’s going to be Paul’s decision going forward, but I think we made a pretty good case (Tuesday).”

Hellebuyck finished with 31 saves as the Jets finished their season-long six-game homestand with a 4-2-0 record. They now hit the road for four straight games starting Thursday night in Ottawa.

 

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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Updated on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 9:38 PM CST: Adds photos

Updated on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 11:26 PM CST: Final version.

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