LOS ANGELES – As the blood squirted through the 10 stitches across his chin, to go along with the seven or eight on the inside of his mouth, Josh Morrissey did his best to try and piece together the series of events that led Blake Lizotte to unexpectedly cross-check him in the face.
Sure, the Winnipeg Jets defenceman and Los Angeles Kings forward had been jostling up the ice, but after Morrissey had slashed Lizotte across the shin pads, he was prepared for whatever came next.
Or so he thought.
Anticipating a tilt, Morrissey challenged his opponent and had dropped his gloves, just in time to see Lizotte catch him across the chops with his stick.
“We were kind of going at it up the ice, he hooked me, I slashed him for sure and then he turned around and looked at me and skated in my direction. I said ‘Let’s go,’ and dropped my gloves and got his stick up in my face,” said Morrissey. “Obviously, when a guy turns around and skates right at you, I think he’s looking to engage. I said ‘Let’s go’ and dropped my gloves and he had his stick up. I don’t think he’s skating around out there looking to cross-check guys in the face, but it happened.
“My reaction is (that) it hurts a lot and I needed to get off the ice. It was a careless play. I thought we were going to go and I took a cross-check to the chin. It could have been my teeth, so thankfully not.”
Lizotte was given a match penalty and game misconduct for cross-checking and he’s likely to hear from the department of player safety about a suspension.
Although Morrissey was unavailable for the power play, he was fortunate to escape without a more serious injury, allowing him to return for the third period in what turned into a 4-1 loss for the Jets.
Morrissey chose to take the high road, but teammate Pierre-Luc Dubois wasn’t about to let Lizotte off the hook for the undisciplined action.
“I mean, it’s a dirty play. It’s as simple as that. It’s a dirty play,” said Dubois, who scored the lone goal with 33 seconds to go in the Lizotte major. “Even if it was in the chest, it’s a dirty play. I hope the league reviews it and makes the right decision. That’s not what anyone wants to see.”
Jets head coach Rick Bowness didn’t like what he saw on the play either.
“It’s something the league is certainly going to take a look at. It’s an uncalled for cross-check into a guy’s face,” said Bowness. “The league’s got to take a really good look at that one.”
As for the game itself, the Jets lost two defensive zone draws cleanly, resulting in goals for Viktor Arvidsson and Drew Doughty.
The first came just 82 seconds into the contest, while Doughty’s goal restored the two-goal cushion for the Kings after the Jets cut the deficit to 2-1 late in the second period.
“I thought we did some good things. They’re a team that if you get down by a couple, they’re pretty hard to play against,” said Morrissey. “That one-three-one, especially when the ice isn’t very good, is tough to get through. That’s their bread and butter and they’re good at it. I thought we played a little bit into, at times, but I thought the compete level was there.
“We gave up a couple goals off of faceoffs and you never want that to happen. So, it was a close game and that’s the style of hockey that you see this year from good teams. A couple details the other way are probably the difference.”
The power-play marker for Dubois snapped a zero-for-23 drought with the man advantage, but the Jets had a glorious opportunity to do more with the five-minute power play.
Their inability to do so proved even more costly when Doughty’s marker seemed to let the air out of the balloon for a Jets team that struggled to get much going against the structurally sound Kings – who are riding an 11-game point streak (9-0-2).
“We all want to win. I think everybody is frustrated right now. Everybody wants to win. This time of year, we can’t drop too many points,” said Dubois. “This is a big game for us against a really good team, but against potentially a playoff match-up down the road, who knows.
“It was a big game for us to see where we’re at. I understand you can’t win them all, but at this point of the year we have to try. We have to bring our A-game every night. We did some good things (on Saturday) but we can do a lot better these next couple games.”
The Jets dropped to 41-30-3 on the season and they’ll close out this three-game California swing on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks.
Coupled with a 5-3 victory by the Calgary Flames on Saturday afternoon, the Jets cushion in the chase for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference is down to four points – with the Jets and Flames even in games played.
Dubois scored his 25th goal of the season, but this was another game when the Jets top guns were mostly silent at even strength.
Jets centre Mark Scheifele was held to zero shots on goal and two shot attempts in the contest as his struggles since his benching against the Carolina Hurricanes continued.
Nobody is pointing the finger solely at Scheifele, but he’s picked a terrible time to be missing in action for a team that needs him to be driving play.
Scheifele has now gone eight games without a goal and he has no shots in three of those contests.
As for his production, he’s been held to two assists during that eight-game stretch and he’s carrying a minus-13 rating.
While it’s important not to put too much stock into plus/minus as a general rule, the point is that Scheifele has been on the ice for far too many goals against at even strength while he and his linemates are not generating enough at the other end of the rink.
If that doesn’t change quickly, the Jets could find themselves in trouble.
The reason it stands out so blatantly when he’s not playing well is because when he’s on, Scheifele can have a massive impact on the outcome of games.
Right now that simply hasn’t been the case.
“The top guys, yeah. Well, they’ve got to score. We need some goals from them. Yeah. That’s just stating the obvious,” said Bowness, who was then asked if opposing teams were doing a good job to limit the production of the Jets’ top offensive players lately. “Fight through it. Fight through it. Whatever they throw at you, fight through it.”