Back-to-back games have given us nightmares for years, and tonight, we saw a perfect example of why. The Los Angeles Kings came out extremely strong, but the team faltered... and when they faltered, it didn't go well. LA's desperate late comeback fell short, and the result was a 4-3 defeat.
The first period consisted mostly of two types of plays: the Kings getting shots, and the Jets rushing the other way. At various points early on, Willie Mitchell, Slava Voynov, and Jarret Stoll (against a 2-on-1 on the penalty kill) were all counted on to break up Winnipeg chances, and they supported Jonathan Quick on the defensive end. On offense, the Kings were peppering Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec with shots. Pavelec was clearly aware that we spent a lot of time yesterday criticizing him, because he was on his game, stopping every one of the Kings' top five forwards in the first few minutes. LA also had plenty of rebound attempts, and one of them (off a shot that didn't get all the way through) finally paid off. Willie Mitchell's blast from the point was blocked, but the Jets' attempted clearance trickled to Matt Greene. Greene's one-timer beat Pavelec for his first goal since Game 6 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.
The Jets came right back the other way with their own second-chance goal, just a minute later. Evander Kane got the puck from Mark Scheifele inside his own blue line and attempted a half-shot, half-dump-in before entering the offensive zone. When that attempt was blocked, Kane got the puck back and flung a long shot at the top corner of the net. Quick might have been fooled (Jim Fox called it a knuckle-puck), but he probably should have stopped it. Regardless, it tied the game for Winnipeg.
The second period, for a while, was more of the same. Justin Williams and Trevor Lewis each couldn't quite get their sticks on rebounds, and Pavelec needed to remain sharp. But the ice tilted noticeably around the game's halfway point, and LA's failure to keep up their own pace proved to be their downfall. With seven minutes to go in the second, Olli Jokinen converted a rebound of Michael Frolik's shot for his 300th career goal, and the Jets shut down Los Angeles all the way into the second intermission. (By the way, Olli Jokinen was traded away from the Kings fourteen years ago. Fourteen!)
The Jets continued to dominate in the third period, and two goals in the first six minutes sent Jonathan Quick to the bench. The Los Angeles penalty kill had been bailed out a few times by Quick earlier on, but after a penalty by (you guessed it!) Matt Greene, Evander Kane got the puck in the high slot and had plenty of room to wrist one above the glove of Jonathan Quick. Three minutes later, Kane used his speed to beat Jake Muzzin and get to the front of the net; though his bid for a hat trick was stopped by Quick, Devin Setoguchi grabbed the puck behind the net and converted the wraparound before Quick (or Jeff Carter, attempting to duplicate Thursday's Trevor Lewis effort) could block off the post.
Los Angeles finally woke up after the Jets made it 4-1 and Quick was pulled in favor of backup Ben Scrivens. Jeff Carter scored on a wrist shot just six seconds into the next LA power play, giving the Kings nine minutes to find two more goals. They found one - Matt Frattin's shot on another power play beat Pavelec but hit the post, and Justin Williams knocked in the rebound - but in the end, they couldn't complete the comeback. Bryan Little's empty-netter sealed the deal.
I'm more than willing to chalk this up to a tired team, but there were some concerns. Sutter's decision to yank Quick was more an indictment of the team than it was of the goalie, but he definitely wasn't as effective as he was on Thursday. Matt Greene took two more minor penalties, and a Robyn Regehr tripping penalty immediately after the Williams goal with four minutes left damaged LA's hopes. The third line (King, Stoll, Lewis) struggled mightily, and Sutter went to the fourth line with a minute to go... never a good sign.
No longer undefeated, the Kings get a couple days to recharge before Monday's home opener against the Rangers.