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This article was published 27/10/2015 (2402 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Make no mistake about it, the tight-quarters, hack-and-whack Los Angeles Kings are back.
The 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup champions were mere spectators in last spring’s playoffs but have figured out their game again quickly this fall.
It was obvious on the ice at the MTS Centre Tuesday night, scoring a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets for a sixth straight win before 15,294 fans treated to a March-like chess match.
Empty-net goals by Tyler Toffoli and Trevor Lewis masked the clamped-down nature of the night.
"They have a lot of players on there that have had success doing exactly what they did tonight and they’re very comfortable staying with it," said Jets coach Paul Maurice.
The Jets’ speed and quickness exhibited so far for much of October was neutralized most of the evening as the game developed into one of decisions and taking care of the puck.
It’s not that the Jets weren’t ready to play in the very small spaces and short time frames that the Kings allow, it’s just that they weren’t ready to be good at it.
Certainly, the game didn’t contain the emotion or the wheeling and dealing fans have seen previously on this homestand, and it was all even until Milan Lucic got credit for a two-on-one play that decided it with 4:41 left in regulation time.
"That was a tight game," said Jets right-winger Drew Stafford. "Not a lot going on. Chances were pretty low for the most part. We knew the goal (to win) was going to be a greasy one with somebody going to the net.
"A game like that against a team like that that plays a very suffocating game, they take away a lot of time and space. We needed to play a little more grimy, a little more greasy."
The result dropped the Jets to 5-3-1 on the season and 2-2-1 so far on the six-game homestand that wraps up Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
After sputtering briefly out of the gate, the Kings are now 6-3-0 on their season and have top spot in the Pacific Division.
Jets rookie right-winger Nikolaj Ehlers struck for his fourth goal of the season and for the third game in a row, giving the home team the lead 8:45 into the second period.
But it was the least room the 19-year-old has seen so far in his debut season with the Jets.
"It was difficult out there today," he said. "They were trying to give us less room."
When Jake Muzzin sailed a point shot home to tie the game at 15:50 of the second, the Jets briefly considered using a challenge on the goal, as Kings’ forward Milan Lucic was near — and may have contacted — Ondrej Pavelec at the net.
The Jets opted not to cry foul and Pavelec tipped his cap to the big Kings forward.
"Yeah, I don’t think he touched me," Pavelec said. "He did a great job in front."
Oops, it didn’t work
Maurice had a bit of a sad look to his face when asked about the Lucic’s late winner, which occurred directly after the Jets won the faceoff in the Kings’ end.
"We were set up for a bit of a shooting play from the back end and they got there fast," Maurice said.
Maurice, however, was confident the Jets will benefit from the early exposure to such a style of game.
"They’re very good at not allowing that (speed) to happen so it’s adjustment you need to make with your game," he said. "It’s not one that’s fun to make because you’ve scored a bunch of goals and you think if you just play your game you should be able to.
"We’ll get better at it, playing that style of game, generating offence from it. And having some patience in the game with the puck. But there’s going to be a bit of a curve here with some guys who feel they can generate. The other team’s not bad."