WINNIPEG – Marian Gaborik didn’t get on the score sheet in his debut with the Los Angeles Kings, but he felt comfortable in a 3-1 victory Thursday over the Winnipeg Jets.
Gaborik was acquired in a trade with Columbus on Wednesday and skated on the top line with centre Anze Kopitar and right-winger Justin Williams.
“We created some things,” said Gaborik, who logged 16:38 of ice time. “We had some good time on the power play as well.
“We got some great help by our (defence) offensively as well so I think it’s going to get better and better.”
Mike Richards scored the game winner on a Winnipeg giveaway that helped run the Kings’ (36-22-6) winning streak to six games.
“I was just as excited as a lot of the people that were here that came in from (my hometown) of Kenora (Ont.),” Richards said of the 20-plus game tickets he had to find.
Captain Dustin Brown had Los Angeles’ first goal and Alec Martinez added a third-period power-play goal.
Goalie Jonathan Quick only needed to make 17 saves for his 20th win of the season.
Olli Jokinen notched his 15th goal of the season for Winnipeg (30-27-7) and a busy Ondrej Pavelec stopped 38 shots.
“They move the puck well, they can spend a lot of time in your zone,” Pavelec said. “We have to forget about this one and focus on the next one.”
Winnipeg and Phoenix were tied at 67 points heading into the game, one point behind Dallas for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Vancouver was one back of the Jets and Coyotes.
Vancouver was visiting Dallas on Thursday night and Phoenix was hosting Montreal.
“I liked the speed of the game that we started the game with,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. “I thought we moved the puck sharp and we moved our feet. And then I thought we ran into the L.A. Kings.
“When they’re at their best, they will take your game and frustrate you to the point that you start to change what you’re trying to do because there’s nothing given easily.”
The biggest cheer in the scoreless first period was for Jets forward Dustin Byfuglien, after he sent Kings defenceman Jake Muzzin over the boards into the bottom of Winnipeg’s bench.
Los Angeles outshot the Jets 11-7 in the opening frame.
Winnipeg didn’t get its first shot of the second period until almost seven minutes in, but the Jets scored on their 11th of the game.
Evander Kane went around Kings defenceman Drew Doughty and then beat Muzzin to the puck off the boards behind the net, sending a quick pass to Jokinen who shot the puck past Quick at 12:03.
But the jubilation of the MTS Centre only lasted 42 seconds.
Brown scored his 12th goal of the season after centre Jarret Stoll sent a long backhand pass across the front of the net that hit Brown’s skate and the puck trickled across the goal-line past Pavelec at 12:45.
Then Jets defenceman Tobias Enstrom, at the boards by the Kings’ bench, made a pass across the ice that was supposed to be for Jokinen. Richards intercepted it halfway, crossed the blue-line and then fired a shot by Pavelec at 16:15 for his ninth of the season.
Los Angeles also outshot the Jets 10-6 in the second. The Kings are now 19-0-0 this season when leading after the second period.
With Jets forward Blake Wheeler in the penalty box for high-sticking, defenceman Martinez scored unassisted at 15:51 with a shot on Pavelec’s blocker side.
The Jets had to juggle all four lines from Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Islanders because of injuries.
Winnipeg rookie centre Mark Scheifele sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during the loss. The second-line centre is out for at least four weeks and possibly the rest of the regular season.
Forward Chris Thorburn was also injured in the game and is listed day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Those deletions made Maurice put his top line of Andrew Ladd, centre Bryan Little and Wheeler back together.
Jokinen was centring the second line with Kane and Byfuglien. Michael Frolik, who’s only played a few games at centre during his six-year NHL career, was put in the middle with Matt Halischuk and Devin Setoguchi.
The fourth line was centred by Jim Slater with Eric Tangradi and Anthony Peluso.
Winnipeg hosts Ottawa on Saturday afternoon and the Kings play in Edmonton Sunday.