WINNIPEG, Canada — Some players joke about wind-swept Winnipeg being the Siberia of the NHL.
It was no joke to goalie Daniel Berthiaume. In his final days here, he felt a cold wind blowing from all directions. And it had nothing to do with the weather.
Fans booed him. Fellow players often ignored him. Management seemed down on him.
So imagine his delight at coming back here Sunday night as a King and putting on another in a series of good performances in the net as the Kings beat the Winnipeg Jets, 6-2, before 14,087 at Winnipeg Arena.
"I was pretty nervous tonight," Berthiaume said. "You always want to come back and play well against the team that traded you."
But it was Berthiaume who asked for that trade. A year ago, the only jets he wanted to be on were the ones that could get him out of town.
He had had an up-and-down career here, starting in 1986. Some teammates labeled him moody and unfriendly when things weren't going his way.
It all came to a head last January when a local newspaper accused him of rudely refusing to sign a autograph for a young fan after a tough loss.
Berthiaume at first denied the incident. But then, at the request of management, he went on television to apologize and quiet the unhappy fans.
"It never happened," he now says of the alleged autograph incident. "I went on the air to say I regretted what had happened, but I knew I didn't do anything wrong. I finally told (the front office) it might be better if they moved me."
Management didn't have to be told twice. Berthiaume was traded to the Minnesota North Stars, but torn cartilage in his right knee limited him to five games with the team.
On the eve of training camp, he was traded to the Kings for Craig Duncanson. Berthiaume was told he would have to beat out Ron Scott and Mario Gosselin for the backup goalie job behind Kelly Hrudey, but he far exceeded that goal.
Entering Sunday's game with the best save percentage in the league (.934), he has become Hrudey's equal, alternating with him in the starting role.
"We've been looking for a 1-2 punch like this for a long time," said Cap Raeder, the King assistant coach who works with the goalies. "We'll go 1-2, 1-2 with these guys. We'd like to keep that going as long as we can."
That could be a while. Berthiaume, who faced 25 shots Sunday, is 5-0 in the net.
It wasn't a particularly tough night for him, because the Kings continued to play solid team defense.
The team has given up two or fewer goals in seven of 10 games and won all seven.
"I've never seen this team play defense as well in the five years I've been here," King defenseman Steve Duchesne said. "It's nice to see a forward beside you helping the guys."
The Kings (8-2-1) moved back into the Smythe Division lead, one point ahead of the Calgary Flames.
Luc Robitaille opened the scoring with his sixth goal, in the first period. Wayne Gretzky got an assist, his 2,0001st point.
The Kings added five goals in the final two periods, from Tomas Sandstrom, John Tonelli, Steve Kasper, Tony Granato and Todd Elik.
Winnipeg's goals were scored by Greg Paslawski and Fredrik Olausson.
The Kings, in ending a four-game losing streak in games played here, halted the three-game winning streak by the Jets (4-7-1).
When it was over, Berthiaume was all smiles.
"The guys here (in the locker room) are close," he said. "When you're having a good game, they tap you on the pads and tell you how good you're doing. It wasn't that way in Winnipeg."
Duchesne, an old friend of Berthiaume who took him in as a roommate when the goalie first moved to L.A., never doubted Berthiaume's talent.
"I'm not surprised at how well he is playing," Duchesne said.
"He just had to change his attitude. He felt like the other guys (in Winnipeg) didn't like the city, so they weren't happy. He told me, 'I love L.A. I won't screw up like I did in Winnipeg and Minnesota.' "
When King announcer Bob Miller missed Friday night's game because of the graduation of his son, Kevin, from college, it marked only the second time in 13 seasons Miller missed a broadcast. The other time occurred in 1984, after his mother died. Miller is in his 18th season as the Kings' play-by-play man.
The Kings' loss Friday ended an unbeaten string that had reached seven. That tied last year's high and was only four short of the club's all-time record. The 1973-74 club put together a streak of 9-0-2.