Kopitar scores four as Kings edge Jets 6-5 in a shootout

After a rough patch in which offence had been hard to come by, the Winnipeg Jets broke out for five goals Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings, but they still lost.

Anze Kopitar scored four goals as the Kings overcame a two-goal deficit in the third period for a 6-5 shootout win as the Jets suffered a fourth straight loss.

The Jets wasted two different two-goal leads in dropping to 1-5-1 in their last seven games. But after scoring just nine goals over their previous six games, it was at least a step in the right direction.

“That was a good sign tonight,” said Jets head coach Rick Bowness. “We got to build on it. We’re gonna have a tough weekend with Edmonton back-to-back, but if we play as hard as we did tonight, then we’ll be okay.”

Josh Morrissey had a four point showing with two goals and two assists to set a new career high with 13 goals on the season.

His first period tally ended their even strength goal drought at exactly 200 minutes.

“I thought we competed super hard,” said Morrissey. “I thought we played really well in that game. Obviously, you give up five goals, and you don’t want to do that, but I don’t have a huge problem with the way we competed, and the way we played.

“You get the lead, you want to keep it, but we played really hard, and considering the last number of games, we’re going to build off that.”

The Jets were playing without both Pierre-Luc Dubois and Mason Appleton who missed the game with injuries, so the Jets dressed an extra defenceman instead.

Kevin Stenlund also notched a pair as the team finally got some secondary scoring. It’s was the first time a forward in the Jets bottom-six scored an even strength goal in more than 12 games going back to January 22.

“We needed a big game from Kevin without Duby (Dubois) out there,” said Bowness. “His role went up and he responded.”

Nino Niederreiter played just over 18 minutes in his Jets debut after his weekend trade from Nashville. He was held without a point, but caused a bit of a ruckus in the second period when he was assessed a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head.

“He’s a solid top-six guy,” said Bowness. “We got to get the power play going clearly, and he was good with the role we asked him to play on the power play. He did a good job in the bumper position. That’s what he is. He goes to the net and finishes checks, and I thought for our first game with us, I thought he was very good.”

READ MORE: Niederreiter arrives as Winnipeg Jets struggle to stay in the playoff picture

The Jets got off to a shaky start, managing just three shots in the first 15 minutes of the game before Morrissey took over.

After Morrissey’s point shot went wide, Mark Scheifele tried jamming it in from behind the net, drawing Pheonix Copley out of position.

The puck squirted into the crease where a hard-charging Morrissey slammed it into the net to open the scoring at the 15:52 mark. Blake Wheeler was credited with his 600th career assist on the play.

Less than two minutes later, Morrissey struck again, getting loose into the slot and blasting one top-shelf over the glove of Copley to make it 2-0 after one.

The Kings wasted no time cutting into that lead in the second. After Neal Pionk took a holding penalty 20 seconds into the period, the Kings won the draw back to Drew Doughty. The veteran blueliner passed it to Kevin Fiala, who zipped a perfect cross-ice feed to Kopitar for a one-timer to get Los Angeles on the board.

Kyle Connor restored the two-goal lead at the 6:08 mark when he caught Copley off guard with a shot from the half-wall that went top-shelf.

But the Kings answered back with two goals in 1:29, both from their captain.

At the 9:14 mark, Kopitar redirected a point shot past Connor Hellebuyck while skating through the slot, and at the 10:43 mark he did it again after a faceoff win in the Jets end, tipping a shot from Doughty to tie the game.

The game stayed tied for 1:17 because Stenlund stole the puck from Durzi behind the Kings net, walked out in front and whipped a shot through Copley to restore the Winnipeg lead with his first goal in 13 games. Morrissey picked up his 50th assist of the season on the play.

Los Angeles would get a great opportunity to draw level again when Logan Stanley and Brenden Dillon each took penalties, but the Jets killed both of them off, including 17 seconds of 5-on-3 time.

The crowd came alive late in the period when Niederreiter crushed Durzi with a hit in the neutral zone that sparked a scrum, including a tussle between Niederreiter and Adrian Kempe. Both were given roughing penalties while Niederreiter also received a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head as the crowd roared.

But it was Winnipeg, who came into the game with just nine goals scored in their last six games, who kept the offence coming, even while shorthanded.

Adam Lowry carried the puck into the Kings end and waited as Stenlund drove to the net before hitting the Swede for his second of the night, giving the Jets a 5-3 lead after 40 minutes. It was the first career shorthanded goal for Stenlund in his 104th NHL game.

Early in the third, the Kings got back within one when Kopitar ripped a knucklepuck over the shoulder of Hellebuyck for his fourth goal of the night, his second career four-goal game.

As the period went along, the Jets earned a pair of power play opportunities to try and restore their multi-goal lead but could not convert, which proved costly late in the frame when the Kings drew level.

Gabriel Vilardi narrowly beat Dylan Samberg as they raced to retrieve a puck just inside the Winnipeg blue line, and as Vilardi collected the puck, Samberg fell, leaving the Kings forward all alone as he walked in and roofed one past Hellebuyck to tie the game with 4:06 remaining.

The game stayed tied after 60 minutes, and then 65 minutes as neither side could find the back of the net in overtime, so for the second time this season, the Winnipeg Jets would take part in a shootout.

Scheifele was denied by Copley to lead off the shootout before Vilardi rang one off the crossbar. Connor was then denied before Kempe beat Hellebuyck five-hole, leading to a must-score attempt for Wheeler but he could not beat Copley, giving the Kings the victory.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Slumping Jets need to find a solution

Hellebuyck made 32 saves in defeat, while Copley allowed five goals on 31 shots but improved to 18-4-2 on the season.

The Jets will not play again until after the trade deadline Friday in Edmonton. It’s an 8 p.m. start with pregame coverage getting underway at 6 p.m. on 680 CJOB.

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