WINNIPEG — The Los Angeles Kings weren't perfect on the road, but coach Todd McLellan liked the results and some lessons learned along the way.
Captain Anze Kopitar recorded a goal and one assist in his 1,200th career NHL game Saturday to help lift the Kings to a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.
Los Angeles finished 2-0-1 on a three-game road trip, losing against the Edmonton Oilers in a shootout last week and then beating the Calgary Flames in a shootout.
“This was a tough run,” McLellan said. “Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg is not an easy place to play for a lot of reasons. Each one of the teams is a little bit different. They all have superstars who are game-breakers. Outstanding goaltending for the most part. Tough buildings to play in. Not an easy travel schedule.
“This is what our team needs right now. We need to go through these moments so that we will be better down the road for that. Down the road could be Monday against Calgary, it could be two weeks from now, it could be next year. I don't know where it's going to take us, but we're learning lessons as we go.”
Adrian Kempe also had a goal and an assist and Gabriel Vilardi notched his third goal of the season for the Kings (38-23-10), who have just three regulation losses in their last 18 road games (12-3-3).
Cal Petersen stopped 25 shots for Los Angeles, which hosts the Flames on Monday.
Nikolaj Ehlers and Adam Lowry scored for the Jets, who started a three-game homestand.
Connor Hellebuyck made 35 saves for Winnipeg (33-27-10), which are 3-2-0 in their past five games.
Winnipeg was 0 for 6 on the power play and Los Angeles was 1 for 3.
“We got our chances,” Lowry said. “Their goalie played well. I think in another game, we could have scored more but that's how it is. It's not easy to score. They did a good job of defending, goalie made key saves.”
The Jets went into the game four points back of the idle Vegas Golden Knights (80 points) for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, and three points behind the Dallas Stars, who were in San Jose for a late Saturday game.
The Kings led 2-1 after the first period and 3-2 following the second.
The Jets had the game's first power play, but the tables turned and Kempe scored shorthanded at 2:21.
The goal was reviewed to see if he had kicked the puck into the net, but his 29th marker of the season stood.
Ehlers tied it up four minutes later when he burst down the left side of the ice and beat Petersen, but Kopitar took advantage of a Winnipeg turnover and recorded his 18th of the season to regain the lead at 10:32.
The visitors outshot the Jets 19-6 in the opening period.
Los Angeles stretched its lead to 3-1 at 3:05 of the second, with Vilardi getting credited for a power-play goal after the puck went in off the skate of Winnipeg defenceman Josh Morrissey.
Lowry squeezed the score 3-2 at 13:31 when he netted off a rebound four seconds after a Winnipeg power play expired.
The Jets were on the power play for the final three minutes of the second period because of overlapping Los Angeles penalties and had 1:05 with the man advantage to start the third.
Winnipeg also had a power play eight minutes into the period and couldn't corral a loose puck in front of the net and turn it into a goal.
“Cal stepped up and played a great game,” said defenceman Sean Durzi, who picked up an assist on Kopitar's goal. “I thought a couple times we hung him out to dry and, obviously, he made the big stops for us, which was huge.”
The Jets were without leading-scorer Kyle Connor and defenceman Nate Schmidt for the third straight game as they've been in the league's COVID-19 protocol. They should be cleared by the time Winnipeg hosts the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday.
“The schedule has been pretty hectic, so hopefully they come back with a lot of energy,” Winnipeg forward Pierre-Luc Dubois said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2022.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press