After getting the spark it needed from its defense, the Winnipeg Jets will look for sustained success when they play host to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.
The Jets ended a two-game losing skid with a 3-2 home victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday when defenseman Nathan Beaulieu scored the game-winning goal in the third period. Beaulieu also had an assist, while defenseman Dmitry Kulikov added two assists.
Defenseman Josh Morrissey didn’t record a point but was influential in keeping Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in check. Chicago did not score a goal while Morrissey was on the ice.
The victory prevented an extended run of defeats like the five consecutive losses that came at the end of January for the Jets. Winnipeg is now 5-2-1 in February and can improve on that against a Kings team that is by far the worst in the Western Conference at 21-33-5 (47 points).
Centers Mason Appleton and Jack Roslovic had second-period goals against the Blackhawks. The game also marked the NHL debut of right wing Andrei Chibisov, who had eight minutes of ice time.
“He was good,” the Jets’ Nick Shore said of Chibisov, according to NHL.com. “He’s a big strong, skilled forward and I think the more he gets into the game the better it’s going to be. … It’s always a bit of nerves your first game so I’m sure he’s happy to get that one over with.”
The matchup with the Kings will end a stretch six home games for the Jets (3-2-0). They have also played eight of the last nine games at home, going 5-3-1.
Despite their season of struggles, the Kings will enter Tuesday on a two-game winning streak, the first time they have recorded consecutive victories since Dec. 15 and 17 at Detroit and Boston.
The Kings also will be returning indoors after earning a 3-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday in the Stadium Series game at the Air Force Academy’s football stadium in Colorado Springs.
The hat trick for the Kings’ Tyler Toffoli was the first in an outdoor game in NHL history. Also key for the Kings was a strategy to have shorter shifts on the ice. It was a tactic primarily done because the game was played at over 6,600 feet in elevation, the highest altitude ever for an NHL game.
The Kings reportedly shipped Toffoli to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday in exchange for forward Tim Schaller, a prospect and a draft pick.
Moving forward, the Kings could end up using shorter shifts even when they are a bit closer to sea level.
“We stayed on tired for about the first 10 minutes of the game, and we needed (goalie Jonathan Quick),” head coach Todd McLellan said. “And then after that, we kind of figured out that this wasn’t going to work playing regular shift length, losing faceoffs, turning pucks over. So we simplified things, we made it a lot shorter. We focused on getting off the ice as much as we did getting on the ice for the rest of the night, and I think that paid off for us.”
Tuesday’s contest is just a one-game trip for the Kings. They return home Thursday for five consecutive games, play one game at Vegas on March 1, and then have a run of nine consecutive home games that ends on March 22.
–Field Level Media