October 21, 2018

Winnipeg
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Record: 5 – 2 – 1

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Winnipeg Jets (5 – 2 – 1)

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Jets avoid sin bin in 2-1 win over Kings

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor celebrate Connor's goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period Tuesday.</p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor celebrate Connor's goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period Tuesday.

They say good things happen to nice people.

The Winnipeg Jets would certainly agree with that as they were practically choir boys on ice Tuesday night, mostly avoiding the sins of their very recent past on the way to a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in their home opener at Bell MTS Place.

Cancel the anger management classes, at least for now.

“We were better with our sticks. A chunk of those are tripping penalties that we had taken, not checking with our feet, and we were reaching in on pucks. But we skated better (Tuesday), so we were able to look more, I don’t know if disciplined is the right word, but we just didn’t take the penalties that we took that were those stick ones you don’t like,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said following the game.

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They say good things happen to nice people.

The Winnipeg Jets would certainly agree with that as they were practically choir boys on ice Tuesday night, mostly avoiding the sins of their very recent past on the way to a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in their home opener at Bell MTS Place.

Cancel the anger management classes, at least for now.

"We were better with our sticks. A chunk of those are tripping penalties that we had taken, not checking with our feet, and we were reaching in on pucks. But we skated better (Tuesday), so we were able to look more, I don’t know if disciplined is the right word, but we just didn’t take the penalties that we took that were those stick ones you don’t like," Jets head coach Paul Maurice said following the game.

Winnipeg improved to 2-1-0 with the win, while Los Angeles now has a 1-1-1 record.

It was a much-needed behavioural change for the Jets, who showed off their naughty side in splitting the first two games of the regular season. Winnipeg was short-handed nine times in St. Louis and Dallas, surrendering three power-play goals along the way. That’s not exactly a formula for sustained success.

While Tuesday’s game had plenty of physical play, Winnipeg managed to keep its emotions in check, save for a couple minor misdeeds in the third period. Fortunately for Mark Scheifele (delay of game for puck over the glass) and Tyler Myers (careless high-stick), their teammates bailed them out by killing off both infractions.

Winnipeg dominated five-on-five play for large stretches, while earning three power plays of their own simply by moving their feet, controlling the puck and keeping the Kings at bay while outshooting them 39-17.

Winnipeg Jets' Kyle Connor scores a power play goal on a pass from Blake Wheeler against the Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jack Campbell during the second period in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Kyle Connor scores a power play goal on a pass from Blake Wheeler against the Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jack Campbell during the second period in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

And it paid off, as Kyle Connor scored the game-winner in the second period while his team had the man advantage. It’s the third goal in as many games for the sophomore winger. He poked home a puck that was probably going in anyways off the stick of Blake Wheeler.

"I hope he gets 40 of those, honestly," the gracious captain said of having his tally ‘stolen.’ "If he’s not standing there, I don’t make that play and the puck doesn’t go in the net. Yeah, it may look like he taps it in, but to me that’s his goal all the way."

Wheeler said the play showed the development of his young linemate, who led all NHL rookies last season with 31 goals.

"The truth is, you look at it and say that was an easy one, but he’s in the right spot. The reason that play happens is they’re obviously trying to do a little wrinkle to take away some of our one-timer options, and he sneaks back door and he’s wide open," said Wheeler.

"He’s just a really smart player. We saw once he got some confidence last year the level he can play at. He’s just so dynamic and so quick getting in and out of space, he’s just really tough to defend. He came into camp, he’s been one of our top guys. You can tell the summer he worked on his game, got better. And I can’t tell you how exciting it is to play with a guy like that every day."

Connor said he’s taking it all in stride, not getting caught up in his numbers despite the strong start to his season.

"The same way I’m approaching the game, trying not to get too high or too low throughout the season. It’s a long season here. But playing with confidence is a big thing for me," Connor said. 

Winnipeg made Bell MTS Place a house of horrors for visitors last year, going 32-7-2 in its own barn. It was a huge reason for the squad’s overall success. So winning their home opener is the kind of start the Jets were looking for, even if it wasn’t the most entertaining game.

It didn’t start off so hot, as Ilya Kovalchuk got the visitors on the board just over six minutes into the game. He snuck behind the Winnipeg defence and deflected a perfect Drew Doughty pass past Connor Hellebuyck on the Kings’ first shot of the game. 

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele scores his first goal of the season on a pass from Brandon Tanev against Los Angeles Kings during the first period in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele scores his first goal of the season on a pass from Brandon Tanev against Los Angeles Kings during the first period in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

But Scheifele tied it a few minutes later, converting a nifty feed from Brandon Tanev. Josh Morrissey paid the price to get the play started, absorbing a heavy hit from Jeff Carter to get the puck to Tanev, who had jumped on the ice seconds earlier for Scheifele’s usual wing-man, Wheeler. It was the first goal of the season for Scheifele.

"Just kind of spun off and saw him out of the corner of my eye and he made a great finish on the play," said Tanev.

Winnipeg wanted a good response after the dud in Dallas Saturday night, especially with a game in Nashville on Thursday night looming. The potential for a rocky start to the season was certainly there.

"We didn’t have a great game in Dallas but it’s good to respond and get back out there and play aggressive, getting in shooting lanes and doing the job," said Tanev. "It was a good response from our group. Our leaders did a great job of getting us ready before the game and we came out to play right from the puck drop."

Los Angeles is without No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick, who’s out week-to-week with a lower-body injury. But they can’t blame their goaltending for Tuesday’s loss. Jack Campbell was sensational in making 37 saves.

Hellebuyck had a much quieter night, facing just 17 shots. That was a dramatic decrease in his workload, as opponents fired 77 pucks at Hellebuyck in the first two games.

"Just followed the puck when it was in our end. The guys were really good in front of me, so I could just enjoy the game," said Hellebuyck. "We were very good. In our own zone, we were very detailed and they made it very easy on me."

After the quick trip to play the Predators, Winnipeg returns for a season-long six-game homestand starting Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Reporter

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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History

Updated on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 11:46 PM CDT: Full write through and adds photos.

October 10, 2018 at 10:17 AM: fixes typo

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