WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien — he of the booming slap shot that really shook things up Thursday night — says the Winnipeg Jets will not go quietly.
Byfuglien’s wicked point drive just 15 seconds into the third period snapped a 1-1 tie and sparked the Jets to an unlikely 4-1 triumph over the faltering Los Angeles Kings at the MTS Centre.
The laser beam from just inside the blue line near the wall eluded goaltender Jonathan Quick, whose view of the shot was likely blocked when Jets right winger Nikolaj Ehlers cruised in front of him.
It was Byfuglien’s 17th tally of the season.
“It just shows that we care,” Byfuglien said. “We want to win, and we’re not quitting.”
Less than three minutes after the Jets took the lead, Winnipeg blue-liner Paul Postma picked up the puck at almost the same spot, spun and hammered a slap shot that beat Quick low to the stick side with Jets right winger Blake Wheeler parked in front. The goal was Postma’s second of the season.
Winnipeg right winger Drew Stafford sealed the deal with his 20th goal of the season into an empty net with less than two minutes left.
The Jets (31-37-6), still last in the Central Division, wrapped up a four-game homestand 2-1-1.
The Kings (44-25-5) failed to pick up a point on a three-game road trip that included losses to Nashville and Minnesota.
While the postseason is not in the cards for the Jets, Stafford said the club won’t just sleepwalk through the final eight games.
“We’re still playing for pride. We’re playing to build character in here,” he said. “It’s all about building for next year at this point for us. It’s habits. We could have easily folded up tonight against a team like that that was really bringing it to us.”
Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who posted his first shutout of the season Tuesday in a 2-0 victory over Vancouver, was just as brilliant against Los Angeles in a 33-save performance
“We followed (Pavelec’s) lead,” Stafford said. “The way he was playing kept us in the game. We were able to get some timely goals by some guys, so a win at this point of the year, it helps the cause.”
Pavelec said a gutsy victory against one of the NHL’s most powerful squads is something to build on.
“You play for pride, you play for the fans, you play for our name,” he said. “It is what it is. We put ourselves in this situation. Nobody feels sorry for us. And I think, again, win the game against a team like that, I think that’s pretty good for us.”
Quick turned aside 20 shots for the visitors.
Kings center Anze Kopitar opened the scoring midway through second period. With the Jets killing a penalty, he whipped in his 25th goal of the season.
Winnipeg center Adam Lowry tied the game at 18:20 of the middle frame with his seventh goal and second in as many games.
Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty said the Kings’ inability to clear the front of the net led to the third-period collapse.
“There was traffic definitely in front (of Quick),” Doughty said. “He couldn’t see them, and that’s why they went in.”
The Kings, who still lead the Pacific Division but are just three points ahead of the Anaheim Ducks, head home to face the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
“You can’t be losing three games in a row at any time throughout the season,” Doughty said. “It’s really frustrating that we did this, and we need to fix things. And we need to get winning hockey games, because right now we’re blowing our spot at the top of the division and near the top of the conference.”
Kings center Jeff Carter said, “It’s definitely not what we expected coming into this trip. These are games that we could have separated ourselves a little bit. We got to get going here. We’re running out of games, and you can’t get to the playoffs and then flip a switch. We’ve got a lot of work to do in the next couple of weeks.”
NOTES: Kings LW Tanner Pearson returned to the lineup Thursday after missing Tuesday’s game in Minnesota for personal reasons. Los Angeles sat out RW Kris Versteeg (lower body), C Vincent Lecavalier (undisclosed) and D Jamie McBain (healthy scratch). … Winnipeg D Tyler Myers has been shelved for the rest of the season. He had knee surgery Thursday but also needs hip surgery that will require nearly five months of recovery time. The 26-year-old played all 73 games for Winnipeg this season, registering nine goals and 27 points. Winnipeg D Toby Enstrom also had knee surgery this week and is out for the season as well. RW Anthony Peluso (upper body), RW JC Lipon (upper body), C Mathieu Perreault (upper body), RW Scott Kosmachuk (healthy scratch) and C Chase De Leo (healthy scratch) did not dress. … Los Angeles C Anze Kopitar (plus-32) entered Thursday’s play leading the league in the plus/minus category, but he was a minus-2 at Winnipeg. … The teams meet once more this season — the last day of the regular season, April 9 in Los Angeles.