The key to the LA Kings 5-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets was playing more direct, according to head coach Todd McLellan.
“We did talk about a few things (during the first intermission),” said McLellan during Wednesday’s media availability in Minnesota. “The talk was probably coming for a while. A lot of it was between our ears.”
The Kings were heavily outplayed in the first period in Winnipeg on Tuesday as the Jets out-attempted LA 20-13 at 5-on-5. McLellan’s team also had to kill off a penalty in the opening 20 minutes, helped in large part by veteran netminder Cam Talbot. Over half of his saves (14 of 26) came in the first period.
“He was essential,” McLellan said of Talbot after the game on Tuesday. “We weren’t ready, or else we didn’t react properly in the first five, ten minutes. Talbs did what we needed him to do and that was make some real big saves for about the first ten or 12 minutes and get us to settle down a little bit.”
Thanks to Talbot, making his second start as an LA King, the first period ended goalless. Though Los Angeles settled down a bit toward the end of the period, McLellan knew the team needed to make some adjustments.
“That thing between our ears controls everything else,” said McLellan. “It needed to get straightened out a bit for quite a few of us. We were able to accomplish that…but it’s got to happen before games, not between periods.”
In the second period, the Kings took the play to Winnipeg. LA outshot the Jets 11-3 at 5-on-5 and out-attempted them 20-5. The team played with much more pace and were able to dictate the play on their terms, leading to goals from PL Dubois and Trevor Moore.
“I thought we played smart,” said McLellan after the game. “We didn’t have to take risks to open things up and when we did find an opportunity to go we took advantage of it. We played a lot more direct in the second and third periods than we did in the first. There was way too much east-west play going on. I thought we were prepared to play, we call it ‘ugly’ instead of ‘cute’ and sometimes you need to do that.”
He was asked in Wednesday’s availability about playing more direct and how that comes about.
“Players are like artists,” McLellan explained. “The painting has to look good. They want to make plays…and that’s great if it’s working. If it’s not working, we’ve got to be a little more direct. People buy ugly art.”
The Kings tallied three more in the third period on Tuesday as Arthur Kaliyev, Moore, and Phillip Danault each found the back of the net. At the end of the day, the Kings scored five goals for the second straight game. As McLellan put it, “At the end of the night we scored ugly goals, but they still all count.”
For McLellan and the Kings, they’ll take ugly on Thursday against the Wild; as long as it comes with two points.
(Main Photo Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports)