A game of toying with his lineup finally paid off for Jets coach pyl85, who anchored his team to a stunning 3-2 victory over Los Angeles Sunday night.
After benching his starting center in favor of Keith Tkachuk, pyl85 watched his new center cash in on his first playing time in a while. Tkachuk factored in each Winnipeg goal of the third game, scoring the first and picking up an assist in the 5-2 loss. This success prompted pyl85's sticking with Tkachuk in the final game of the series and his subbing out star Alexi Zhamnov.
"Zhamnov is off his game," the delighted pyl85 joked to reporters in his post-game press conference, making a jocular reference to Ron Barr's pregame analysis. The Winnipeg coach's decision helped his team knock off LA, who had been previously unbeaten in its last 9 games.
The two teams played all four games of their regular season billing today. After a 4-2 loss, the Jets played a tougher first two periods in the second game, in Los Angeles. But, characteristic of the series, LA broke it open in the third period with multiple goals, winning 5-2. The same happened in Game 3, another 5-2 LA win.
"We would be tight through the first two periods," said LA coach Auggie, whose team remains in first place atop the Western Conference. "But we'd get a break in the third and then pile it on. That didn't happen for us in the fourth game as Winnipeg threw some stingy D at us."
Not even Kings (18-4) star Wayne Gretzky could save the day in the fourth game for his team. After Jets striker Teemu Selanne scored huge goals to take 2-1 and 3-2 leads, teammate Teepo Numminen took a potentially devastating penalty with just over a minute in regulation. But the fracas that ensued included Gretzky shots off the left post and Winnipeg goalie Essena's stout netminding.
The puck never crossed the line.
"You'd like to think you're a big time team, and you come back in those types of situations," Auggie said. "We've done it before, but it can't happen every time. The Jets' puck-handling just boggled us in that fourth game, and they never broke in the third as they did before. Credit pyl85. Great poise."
"Ess was great for us in the end," pyl85 said after the final game of the series in LA. "Selanne came through, but I may have to bench Numminen, taking a penalty that late." The Jets (2-7) can now claim huge upsets over Western Conference first and second place teams LA and Chicago--- more than most West teams can say.
And, what the heck? Benching Numminen now? Why not? Those coaching moves seem to be working for the upstart Jets.