Call it a late season reality check for the Winnipeg Jets.
A 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night at the MTS Centre came as not only a reminder of where they currently stand among the elite in the National Hockey League, but more importantly, provided a check on where they need to be if they plan to make an honest bid for a spot in the postseason.
“It’s a good team with a good system. They don’t give you much,” said Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who finished the night with 38 saves on 41 shots, enough to earn him first star of the game.
“That’s the reason why they won the cup [in 2012]. They showed us how to play the game [tonight].”
Lack of discipline
The Jets are losers of their last two straight and have begun showing flashes of their old self. In Tuesday’s loss to the Islanders, they were out hustled. Against the Kings, it was a lack discipline.
“They’re a factor,” coach Paul Maurice said about penalties. “We’ve got to stay out of the box.”
The Jets committed four penalties to the Kings’ one, and three of which were committed in the offensive zone.
Maurice knows his team has begun to create a reputation with officials around the lead. Too often the Jets are caught arguing calls, something officials often take exception to, and note of.
“It’s something we're working on,” said rookie Jacob Trouba. “I think it’s going to take longer than a game, or a week, or a year to change. It’s something you’ve got to instill over time.”
Life without Scheif
The Jets got their first taste of life without Mark Scheifele. The 20-year-old rookie is out six to eight weeks with a sprained MCL in his right knee, an injury he sustained after colliding knee-on-knee with New York's Calvin de Haan in Tuesday’s loss to the Islanders.
With Scheifele out, Maurice was forced to juggle the line combinations, including moving Michael Frolik to the centre.
“It was a little bit different,” said Frolik of moving from wing to the middle. “I think as the game got on I felt a little bit better.”
Maurice, who made the decision to move Frolik because he felt he carried the best skill-set for the transition, was pleased with what he saw.
“I like Michael Frolik’s game an awful lot,” said Maurice. “I thought he was great.”
With Thursday’s loss, the Jets fall to 30-27-7 on the year, totalling 68 points.
With Dallas earning a win over the Vancouver Canucks, they now hold a three-point lead over Winnipeg for the final playoff spot in the West.
But there’s no time to dwell for the Jets who welcome the Ottawa Senators to town this weekend.
“We got to find a way to get past this game and look forward to Saturday,” said Jets captain Andrew Ladd.
“Every loss can hurt at this time of the year but you got to find a way to get past them quickly because the next one is just as important.”
Chris Thorburn was kept out of the lineup with an upper body injury, making room for Eric Tangradi to suit up for the Jets in just his fifth game since Maurice took over mid-January.
Defenceman Mark Stuart, fresh off signing a four-year, $10.5-million extension Wednesday, may need an ice bath following this one. The gritty blueliner was in the line of fire all night, registering seven of the Jets’ 23 blocked shots in the game.
Marian Gaborik dressed for the first time as a member of the Kings. The 32-year-old veteran was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to Wednesday’s trade deadline.
He played alongside Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams, and was a minus-1 in 16:38 of ice time.
First: Ondrej Pavelec, WPG
He was the Jets’ best player on this night. Pavelec finished the game with 38 saves and was the main reason why the game stayed as close as it did.
Second: Mike Richards, L.A.
The native of Kenora intercepted a Tobias Enstrom pass before blistering a shot high glove on Pavelec, which proved to be the winner. He finished the game with three shots and was a plus-1 in 17:45 of ice time.
Third: Drew Doughty, L.A.
There are not a lot of guys in the NHL like Drew Doughty. Strong, smart with the puck, the L.A. defenceman broke up a number of quality plays for the Jets. He finished with six hits and logged a game-high 25:42 of ice time.