WINNIPEG — Daniel Berthiaume may have grown up speaking French, but he can read English plain enough. Before the Kings played the Winnipeg Jets in Los Angeles Nov. 13, the Kings' Luc Robitaille revealed to the L.A. media the Jet goaltender's weakness.
Berthiaume read all about it the next day in the paper.
If the Kings thought they had divined a great secret, then it was surely out. What Robitaille told reporters was that the way to score on Winnipeg's rookie goaltender was to shoot high. Some secret. Judging from the trajectory of most of their shots Sunday night, the Kings were aiming the puck for a basketball net rather than the one on the ice.
Berthiaume's reading of his own press clippings, as well as his quick glove hand, made the difference in the Jets' 3-2 win over the Kings in front of 13,003 in Winnipeg Arena Sunday night.
The Jets (13-7-1) have relied on two rookie goaltenders this season, and their confidence has been repaid with outstanding play from Berthiaume and Eldon Reddick. Together, they have helped the Jets hold on to a tie for first place in the Smythe Division. The Kings (8-12-2) are still chasing .500 and are in fourth place.
"It was a good hockey game both ways," King Coach Pat Quinn said. "We just didn't get the job done. Berthiaume looks like a bright young prospect."
Quinn was generally pleased with the Kings' play, once again noting the effort his players put forth. The fact that the Kings were sending shots skyward didn't bother Quinn.
"When you get in close on 'butterfly' guys (referring to Berthiaume's style of crouching in the net) that's the rule--you go upstairs," Quinn said. "Either we had bad shot selection or he definitely has a quick glove."
Little of the former and a lot of the latter. Mostly, Berthiaume knew what kind of shots to expect.
"Yes, I read this in the paper, they have all been saying that about me since junior hockey," Berthiaume said. "They shoot high and I stop the puck. You can say all their (King) shots were high in the first period. The shots were off the ice."
Berthiaume's 30 saves, most of them spectacular glove saves, overshadowed another excellent night by King goaltender Rollie Melanson. Two of the goals he allowed were deflections, and one, the winning goal, came off a mistake by Marcel Dionne.
"We had some good chances," Quinn said. "I thought we played well in the third period. We make one bone-headed play and the puck goes into the net."
It was Dionne's mistake, a rare one. With the score tied, 2-2, early in the third period, Dionne was carrying the puck out of the King zone. He thought he had room to skate, did so and then flicked a blind pass that stopped on the stick of Dale Hawerchuk of the Jets.
Hawerchuk fed it to Paul MacLean who scored.
The first period ended at 1-1 after goals by Thomas Steen of the Jets and Grant Ledyard of the Kings. Dionne scored a power play goal at 8:26 in the second period to give the Kings a brief 2-1 lead. Winnipeg came back with a goal on a power play of their own to tie it at 14:54.
"We got some good chances, the bottom line is the Jets capitalized," Quinn said.
The Kings had scoring chances taken away by Berthiaume and, more to the point, had a 5-on-3 power play killed by the Jet penalty killing unit, which is rated No. 2 in the league.
"Instead of moving the puck around like we should have, we were hanging on to it and passing it off," King defenseman Jay Wells said. "We should have come out of it with a goal. Before we knew it, time was running out."
Quinn was as baffled as ever, trying to figure out what it takes for his team to win.
"Yes, we out-chanced them," he said. "If percentages mean anything, we should have had more goals. I'm disappointed. We have to start moving toward .500."
King Notes The much-anticipated (in Winnipeg, at least) pounding of Tiger Williams never happened. In fact, Tiger was toothless most of the night. He drew his only penalty while sitting on the bench, responding to Paul MacLean's taunting. MacLean, while in front of the King bench waiting for a faceoff, struck up a conversation with Williams. Whatever they said brought them each a 10-minute misconduct. That penalty brought Jet General Manager John Ferguson storming out of his private box and into the press box where he confronted the supervisor of NHL officials and shouted: "Where in the bleep is that in the rules?" . . . Rookie Jimmy Carson got his first NHL penalty in the second period, as he was called for roughing, along with Jim Kyte of the Jets. Carson got the worst of the scuffle, since Kyte, at 6-5 and 210, is one of the biggest men in the league. The 18-year-old Carson is 6-0 and 185. . . . The Kings will wind up the five-game trip Tuesday night in Vancouver.