Once again a slow start doomed the Minnesota Wild as they lost to the Los Angeles Kings tonight by a 3-0 final score. The Kings scored twice in the first 3:07 of the 1st period and never looked back. Those early goals also sent Wild net minder Niklas Backstrom to the bench, the earliest he’s been yanked from a game this season. Darcy Kuemper replaced Backstrom in goal and allowed 1 more goal the rest of the night. The Wild are now officially on a losing streak getting beaten in three straight, also losing 4 of the last 5 games. These “slow starts” by Minnesota are becoming a habit, a really bad habit that needs to broken before their playoff hopes take a real hit. Case in point, tonight’s loss coupled with the Vancouver Canucks win over the Edmonton Oilers drops the Wild out of 1st in the Northwest Division and down to 6th in the Western Conference. The win moves the L.A. Kings up to 4th in the conference leapfrogging the Wild. Vancouver’s victory moves them up to 3rd in the conference and 1st in the Northwest division 2 points ahead of Minnesota. The loss drops the Wild’s record to 8-10-1 on the road and 21-14-2 overall totaling 44 points on the year.
Minnesota now has two days off before they play next in Columbus against the Blue Jackets. During his post game comments Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo addressed the need for rest and preperation saying,“We’ve go to use this couple of days the right way. Got to make sure we get the rest that we need and get focused on the final stretch of games.” When asked about mistakes made tonight he responded, “Obviously we have to eliminate some of these mistakes that were made.” Yeo isn’t looking back saying, “We need to focus on the next game and that’s it!”
No one stood out for the Wild tonight with the exception of net minder Darcy Kuemper. The relief goalie was excellent allowing 1 goal on 12 shots in nearly 57 minutes of work. He looked solid and confident in net tonight and even played aggressively at times, clearing the puck on his own and challenging Kings’ shooters by coming out of the net. A good backup goalie will go a long way in getting the Wild some much needed wins and maybe more importantly, give Backstrom some rest as the Wild head into the stretch drive for the playoffs. Jason Pominville played his first game in a Wild sweater playing on the top line with Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise. He had 2 shots in 17:52 of ice time and finished a -1 on the night. This was a strange game in respect to shots on goal. The Kings totaled 3 goals on just 14 shots on goal. That’s not a typo, L.A. had 6 shots in the 1st period, 3 shots in the 2nd and 5 in the 3rd. Among those 14 shots were several good scoring chances as this game could have easily been 5-0 for L.A. The Wild were shut out on 23 shots total, 11 of which came in the 3rd period. Jonathon Bernier moves to 9-2 this season as he shut out the Wild, making 23 saves and never seemed to struggle throughout the evening.
The Kings opened the scoring just 1:29 into the game as Justin Williams beat Backstrom with a snap shot from the right side. The play developed on a Minnesota shot that missed the net and caromed all the way to Williams at the blue line and the rest was history. The second L.A. goal came after a Devin Setoguchi turnover and a bad line change by Mike Rupp that led to a King’s line rush. Jeff Carter beat Backstrom with a wrist shot that ended the Wild goal tenders night at 3:07 of the first period. The Kings would score the final goal of the game just 3:52 into the 2nd period on Williams second goal of the game. He beat Wild goalie Kuemper with a slap shot from the right circle that went high on glove side off the crossbar and in. That would be L.A.’s 3rd goal on just 7 shots to this point in the game. There were very few penalties in the game with the Wild going 0 for 1 and the Kings 0 for 2 with the man advantage. Once L.A. took the early lead they managed the game well never letting Minnesota gain any real momentum. The Kings looked like they were on cruise control against a tired Wild squad who were a step behind all night long.
The Wild now fly to Columbus Friday for Sunday’s game with the Blue Jackets. It’s high time to put this losing streak to an end and Columbus is just the team to do it against. A rested and focused Minnesota Wild team will be a lot more fun to watch than the group on the ice tonight. GonePuckWild.com will be back with a game preview Sunday morning. These few games are just a bump in the road to the playoffs for the Wild this season. Losses like tonight just serve to make the wins all that more special. Until next time this is Scott Drain confidently saying, “LET’S GO WILD!!!”