WINNIPEG, MB - The Los Angeles Kings made their final trip to Winnipeg Tuesday evening. In a game chock-full of interesting twists and turns, the Jets – led by rookies Kyle Connor and Eric Comrie – overcame an injury to superstar Patrik Laine and a red-hot opposing netminder en route to a tight 2-1 overtime victory.
Los Angeles starter Jack Campbell recorded his first career NHL win this past February 27th, eight years after being drafted 11th overall by the Dallas Stars – also eight years removed from defeating Canada 6-5 in overtime of the Gold Medal Game of the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships.
Eric Comrie made his third career start on Tuesday, which also marked his first start at Bell MTS Place as a member of the Winnipeg Jets. Comrie lost 6-4 to Florida in his only other start of the season this past December.
Fans in attendance on Tuesday night were treated to a Jacob Trouba bobblehead. Unfortunately, the date of the promotion happened to fall on an inopportune occasion for the 24-year-old rearguard, as Trouba missed his own giveaway night with what Head Coach Paul Maurice revealed to be a concussion Tuesday morning.
The Jets have split the previous six bobblehead promotion nights, going 3-3. Trouba was the second Jet not to play on the date of his giveaway (Blake Wheeler 2015).
The first period featured heavy artillery from the Jets. Starting off the game with immense pressure in a firing gallery of sorts, Winnipeg was unable to solve Campbell, although provided with a handful of point-blank opportunities.
Despite earning a power play midway through the opening frame (on a vague Dustin Byfuglien holding minor), the Los Angeles Kings were unable to create much offence, ultimately losing the shot battle 11-8 after one period of play. Tuesday’s contest marked only the third game of the 2017-18 season in which the first period concluded with zeros on the board for both teams.
The middle frame provided the first two goals of the game, as the Kings and Jets went punch for punch, exchanging scoring chances in a higher tempo second period.
Coming off of an overtime win in Minnesota just 20 hours before puckdrop Tuesday, the Kings showed some of that same resilience that helped guide them to two Stanley Cups in three seasons from 2012-14. Capitalizing on an ill-advised Dustin Byfuglien neutral zone pinch, Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown put the visitors on the board with a nifty two-on-one, resulting in Brown’s 23rd marker of the season.
Kyle Connor knotted the game up at ones on a nice-looking redirection following some excellent neutral zone hustle by captain Blake Wheeler. After corralling the puck off of L.A.’s Marian Gaborik, Wheeler dropped the disc back to Scheifele, who set Connor up perfectly for the game-tying redirection with three minutes to play in the second period.
Early in the second, Patrik Laine blocked an Alec Martinez point shot and required assistance hobbling down the Jets’ tunnel. The 19-year-old did not return to the game with an injury to his left leg. Unfortunately for the Finn, his 15-game consecutive point-scoring streak came to an end, even though he was only on the ice for six minutes – the majority of which came in the first period.
The ice tilted once again towards the Kings’ net in the third period, as Winnipeg absolutely peppered Campbell with quality shot after quality shot. Campbell stopped Connor, Bryan Little and Paul Stastny in tight with tremendous flashes of the leather late in the frame.
Los Angeles held off the assault long enough to push the game to overtime, collecting one point in the process. But the visitor’s luck ran out in the extra frame. Following a Tyler Toffoli crossbar, the play went up ice where Josh Morrissey and Little moved the puck to Connor who hammered his 27th of the season past Campbell, handing the Jets the overtime victory.
Connor’s 27th goal of the season brought him within two goals of the NHL’s rookie goal-scoring leader, Vancouver’s injured winger Brock Boeser. In collecting two goals on the night, Connor bumped his season total to 27 goals and 46 points in 67 games.
Eric Comrie put together a solid performance, stopping 16 of 17 shots on the night, while Campbell played lights-out stopping 36 of 38 shots.
“I mean it was pretty fun,” said Campbell when asked about the onslaught of shots in the second half of Tuesday’s game. “It’s fun to come into this building in a huge game of the season and have the trust of the coaches and teammates behind me.”
With his 82nd point of the season, Kopitar set a new career high in the points department. That point also gave the Kings’ captain the most points for a centreman since Wayne Gretzky led the NHL with 130 points in 1993-94.
Following the game, Kopitar made it clear that his career-high point total is of zero relevance as his only goal is team related.
“It means nothing to me,” Kopitar said. “We’re trying to make the playoffs right now. I honestly don’t care about my own stats.”
Winnipeg will look to build off of its three-straight victories on Friday night when the Anaheim Ducks roll into town for game four of the Jets’ six-game homestand. Winnipeg will then host Nashville and Boston before heading back on the road to end the month of March. Friday’s game from Bell MTS Place gets underway at 7:00 P.M. and can be seen live on TSN3.
Photos by James Carey Lauder