LOS ANGELES — No, you can't win 'em all. And the Winnipeg Jets sure made it tough on themselves Saturday night with a lacklustre start in Los Angeles that prevented a California sweep.
An ugly first-period set the tone for an eventual 2-1 loss at the Staples Center, the lone blemish on a three-game trip that began with victories in San Jose and Anaheim.
Winnipeg falls to 16-10-1, while Los Angeles improves to 11-14-2.
The Jets limped out of the gate, showing none of the speed, hustle or execution they've been displaying in spades lately as they were outshot by a 19-6 margin in the opening 20 minutes.
"I just think we got off to a slow start. You’ve got a room full of human beings and we’ve been playing some pretty good hockey recently. I think we’re due to maybe have a bad period," said captain Blake Wheeler.
"I was real happy with the rest of the game. Forty minutes was pretty good. Certainly the second half of the game we really got it going. It was one of those nights, it was tough for us. Slow start and we just kind of had to battle for it all night. It’s just too bad we couldn’t find that last one."
Defenceman Joakim Ryan, with three career goals and none in the past two years, got the home team on the board with a point blast that beat Jets goalie Laurent Brossoit 7:34 into the game. And then forward Nikolai Prokhorkin, with three NHL goals on his resume, got his stick on a rebound to make it 2-0 at 12:12.
It actually could have been worse if not for some big saves from Brossoit. Overall shot attempts were 36-9 in favour of the Kings in the opening 20 minutes, which is about as one-sided as you'll see in the NHL.
"A lot of work, a lot of shots, but in the pre-scout, we knew this is the type of team that throws everything at the net. For me, I’ve said it time and time again: I like to get peppered with shots, it gets me into the game early," said Brossoit, who finished the night with 32 stops.
"You can attribute it to a number of things but it’s a back to back, took us a period to get our legs, maybe, but we’ve been so good for so long now, we were due, maybe, for an off period. But like I said before, it doesn’t matter if we have an off period, we normally bounce back."
Coach Paul Maurice, clearly unhappy with the start, got the blender out for the second period. Mark Scheifele was moved down to a line with Andrew Copp and Mathieu Perreault, while Adam Lowry took his spot on the top trio with Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor. The other two lines remained intact.
"It just changed the match-up for us. Mark was struggling in the circle against (Anze) Kopitar and it made them make a decision. I thought after that we had more options," said Maurice.
The Jets showed some signs of life, drawing a couple penalties but coming up empty on the power play. Winnipeg did outshoot Los Angeles 15-8 in the second, but couldn't beat Kings backup Jack Campbell.
Winnipeg really came on in the third period, with Jack Roslovic cutting the deficit in half early in the frame after a give-and-go with defenceman Tucker Poolman for his sixth goal of the season, but that's as close as they would get, as the push came too little, too late.
Scheifele had a glorious chance with about one second left, finding himself all alone in the slot only to be thwarted by Campbell's pad. Campbell finished with 33 saves.
"They put up an awful lot at us and we struggled with it for 20 minutes. The match wasn’t to our favour by any stretch of the imagination. We didn’t start with the puck very much, they threw everything at the net. They got to those rebounds faster. Then we just got better," said Maurice.
"Battled harder, competed harder, skated faster, all these things. We made some changes that seemed to get us going a little bit, couldn’t claw back, but we’re not winning every game. But when we have a first period, and over the course of a year you’ll have a first period, what you’re hoping for is you can turn it a little bit and you can stay in the fight. These guys, again, they don’t quit, they keep battling, worked hard, bench was good. Just about tied it in the dying second of the game and didn’t get it to go."
Los Angeles, the Western Conference bottom-feeders, have beaten Winnipeg twice this season.
The Jets came into the game with a 10-2-1 record in November and sitting in second place in the Central Division. One loss certainly doesn't erase what has been a strong month, but it's also a good reminder Winnipeg shouldn't get too high or comfortable. Take a night off and you'll likely end up paying, regardless of your opponent.
"I just think it was one of those nights that it was just tough for us. You know. I think we got a lot of real good looks there the second half of the game. Whiffed on a few, didn’t quite have the hands that we’ve had here recently. It’s going to happen," said Wheeler.
"Our game’s definitely night and day to where it was in October. We’ve put ourselves in a good position here. And looking towards the next month, just keep growing our game, keep getting better."
The Jets were to fly home on Sunday and return to practice to get ready for a home-and-home series with the Dallas Stars. They'll play Tuesday night at Bell MTS Place, then hit the road for a Thursday night date at American Airlines Center.
Updated on Sunday, December 1, 2019 at 12:37 AM CST: full write-thru