The Winnipeg Jets weathered a late barrage by the Los Angeles Kings, riding Devin Setoguchi’s first two goals as a Jet to their second straight win to start the new season on Friday night.
Evander Kane, Olli Jokinen and Bryan Little also scored for the Jets, who capitalized on an uncharacteristically wobbly performance by star Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, chasing him from the net in the third period and hanging on to take their home opener 5-3.
After outshooting the Jets 18-7 in the first period, the visiting Kings seemed to go flat, having notched a shootout win in Minnesota one night earlier, and struggled to test Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec for long stretches. But they came alive again with a pair of power-play goals in the latter half of the third period, setting up a nervous finish for Winnipeg.
It was the Jets’ second close call to start the season after mounting a late comeback to beat the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, but they nearly found the roles reversed on Friday.
“Well, we have a way of making games exciting,” said Jets’ head coach Claude Noel. “It’s not something that we want to get in the habit of doing. I thought we started off slow again, and I thought the game changed a little bit in the second period and the third period. I thought we were quite a bit better.”
Fired up by the always raucous Winnipeg crowd at the MTS Centre, the Jets came out roaring in the opening minutes, hitting everything in a Kings uniform, but were fortunate to get out of the first period tied at 1-1.
The Kings got on the board first, just after a tripping penalty to Jets’ defenceman Paul Postma expired. Dustin Byfuglien whiffed on a clearing attempt, sending the puck bouncing to the point, where Matt Greene corralled it and blasted a slap shot off Byfuglien and past Pavelec.
But less than a minute and a half later, the Jets drew even when a harmless-looking wrist shot from Kane handcuffed Quick, beating him over his glove.
“We played our game after the first period and we’ve got to learn to do that right off the bat and get better starts,” Setoguchi said.
The Jets appeared to take the lead on a power play in the second period, when Blake Wheeler one-timed an Andrew Ladd feed, beating Quick over the right pad. But the goal was disallowed when video review showed the net had been off its moorings – a bizarre turn of events as the goal came off the rush and no one had been near it, which had escaped the notice of the on-ice officials.
But the Jets kept pressing, and after another harmless puck took an odd bounce off Quick, who seemed unsettled all night, Olli Jokinen pounced on a blocked Michael Frolik shot and lifted a fluttering puck over Quick as he sprawled to his left, giving the Jets a 2-1 lead going into the second intermission.
Setoguchi broke the game open 2:22 into the third period with a power-play goal, neatly deflecting a shot off the stick of Kane, with Greene looking on from the penalty box. The assist gave Kane a Gordie Howe hat trick, having also dropped the gloves with Colin Fraser earlier on.
Less than three minutes later, with the Kings reeling, Setoguchi struck again, tucking a wrap-around past a swimming Quick. The goal gave the Jets at 4-1 lead and ushered in Kings backup Ben Scrivens, newly acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs, for his first regular season action for Los Angeles.
The forward line of Setoguchi, Kane and youngster Mark Scheifele combined for seven points on the night, notching their second strong outing the start the season.
“When you enjoy the guys you’re playing with, it makes it even easier,” Kane said. “Obviously, me and [Setoguchi] definitely have some chemistry and [Scheifele] has done a really good job of coming in the middle and kind of being part of that trio. So hopefully we can continue to get better and continue to produce.”
Jeff Carter, who scored the tying goal and shootout winner against Minnesota a night earlier, sparked the Kings’ comeback attempt with nine minutes remaining, slipping a wrist shot through Pavelec’s five-hole off an offensive zone faceoff. Then, with just over four minutes left, a Matt Frattin shot rattled off the post and onto the stick of Justin Williams, who potted his first of the season to bring the Kings within a goal.
But a late tripping penalty to Robyn Regehr sapped the Kings’ momentum and the Winnipeg faithful breathed a collective sigh of relief when Ladd fed a pass to Little for an empty-net goal, sealing the victory.
“We made it close and exciting, but we just couldn’t find that last one,” Scrivens said. “It’s something to build off of. So, that’s what you play hockey for.”
The Jets will host the Anaheim Ducks Sunday night, while Los Angeles heads home to host the New York Rangers on Monday.