Minnesota Wild Win 5th Straight, Beat The L.A. Kings


98. 1. 67. Final. 4

Two goals each from Nino Niederreiter and Mikko Koivu propelled the Minnesota Wild to a win against the surging Los Angeles Kings. The Wild extends its winning streak to 5 straight games and moves in to 3rd place in the Central Division.

Good Morning Minnesota Wild fans. In early January, the Wild was staring down a long losing streak and a likely chance at missing the playoffs.  After last night’s win over the Los Angeles Kings, the Wild look like a lock to make the post-season and fans are chatting about a deep run. The fact of the matter is that the Wild is playing its best hockey of the season and there’s nobody in the Western Conference that the Wild can’t beat if they continue to play like this. The depth at forward is absurd, the defense is rock solid, and Devan Dubnyk continues to play like a top-3 goaltender in the league. All of that proved true last night, so let’s get to my notes!


First Period:

Pretty even match-up in the first, though I think it’s pretty clear that the Kings have more size than the Wild. The Kings are a pesky squad. It seems that once they get a little momentum, they’ll hold the zone for days.

It took the Minnesota Wild quite a bit to register shots on goal, though they did have some attempts that I though reached Jonathan Quick, but they weren’t counted. When Nino Niederreiter registered the Wild’s first shot on goal, he made it count.

Mikko Koivu sent Chris Stewart and Niederreiter in to the offensive zone and trailed behind. Niederreiter beat Anze Kopitar along the end boards to keep the play alive and dropped the puck back to Stewart. Stewart and Koivu played catch while Niederreiter got in position in front of the net. Koivu flipped the puck back to Niederreiter, who cut across the crease and dumped a backhander past Quick to make it 1-0 Wild at 03:15 of the first period.

Thomas Vanek forced a turnover at the blue line a few minutes later and earned a breakaway. Vanek actually had some nifty moves to open up Quick, but couldn’t get his shot past the limber goaltender. From there, Los Angeles took over most of the play and pinned the Wild back in its own end until Koivu and Stewart struck again.

Koivu forced Kopitar to cough up the puck in the neutral zone and put a touch pass on to the stick of Stewart, who carried the puck in to the zone. Koivu sailed down the slot and Stewart sent the puck up ice to the captain. With Kopitar hot on his heels, Koivu went to his patented backhander and flipped it up and over the glove of Quick to make it 2-0 Wild at 13:39 of the first period.

With a goal and an assist in just over 13 minutes of game time, Koivu earned his 115th Multi-point game to pass Marian Gaborik for the Wild’s franchise leader in that category.

Zach Parise nearly nabbed a breakaway after forcing a defensive blue line turnover, but he couldn’t catch up with the puck in time.

Shots through one period: Los Angeles Kings 9, Minnesota Wild 7

Second Period:

Martin Jones played the final 40 minutes in relief of Quick. Quick stayed on in a backup role, which leads me to believe he wasn’t injured and Kings head coach Darryl Sutter was trying to get the Kings going, which worked.

Los Angeles completely dominated play for almost the entire period.

Dwight King cut the Wild’s lead in half early in the second. Ryan Carter attempted to clear the defensive zone with a quick kick and the rest of the Wild followed suit. Unfortunately for the Wild, Tyler Toffoli made a brilliant move to keep the puck in the offensive zone and set up Jeff Carter as the Wild scrambled back in to the defensive zone. Carter cruised down the right-wing wall and then made a great cross-ice pass to Dwight king, who beat Dubnyk over his right leg pad to make it 2-1 Wild at 03:20 of the second period. This might have been one of the first true defensive lapses I’ve seen from the Wild in a while. Sure, there are turnovers here and there, but the Wild has been so sound defensively that this caught me off guard.

Justin Fontaine had one of the few offensive chances for the Wild with a blast from the right face-off circle, but the Kings deftly blocked the shot.

A few minutes later, Drew Doughty had a huge chance for the Kings, but Dubnyk came up with a miraculous save.

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Around the 10 minute mark, Niederreiter got a little roughed up by Jordan Nolan and Jake Muzzin. Stewart stepped up for Niederreiter, dropping the gloves with a disinterested Nolan. Stewart won the fight and it’s good to see him step up for Niederreiter; however, Stewart was on fire in the game and Nolan didn’t look interested, so I feel like that took away from the purity of the event.

Matt Dumba had a defensive turnover right in the slot that Toffoli stole and blasted on net. Dubnyk managed to get a miraculous stop on the puck and kept the Wild in the lead.

The game’s first power play went to the Kings as Erik Haula hooked Justin Williams in the defensive zone. The Wild did well to keep play to the outside for the first 1:40 until Ryan Suter took a slashing penalty. During the VERY brief 5-on-3, Jonas Brodin made an incredible save with a shot block that kept Toffoli out of a wide open net.

As the horn sounded to end the second period, Dubnyk chants  rained down on the ice and the frustration on the faces of the Kings looked to mount. The Wild escaped the second period outshot 17-5.

Shots after two periods: Los Angeles Kings 24, Minnesota Wild 14

Third Period:

Jason Pominville had two great one-timer chances, putting one in to the glove of Jones and the other right in to the crest of his sweater.

The Wild started to show some fatigue in the 3rd period, turning over the puck a handful of times and failing to enter the zone cleanly.

Robyn Regehr sent the Wild to its first power play of the night in the 4th minute. Within 30 seconds, I was a bit worn out with the top unit, but neither grouping had any success.

Marco Scandella sent the Kings back to the power play with a chance to tie the game. Dubnyk managed a couple of saves and even had a close call as he backed in to the net mid-save, but the Wild held the Kings at bay.

Around the 16 minute mark, with tensions mounting, Toffoli took a tripping penalty in the offensive zone and the Wild added to its lead. The Koivu line took to the ice with Scandella and Jared Spurgeon in a power play configuration. I actually liked this grouping, Koivu’s good on the draw and there’s good chemistry. Additionally, all 5 skaters are physical and wear down defenses. After some circular passing in the offensive zone, Scandella set up Spurgeon for a shot from the half wall. Spurgeon’s shot was headed wide of the net, but Niederreiter executed a great deflection to send it under Jones’ glove and make it 3-1 Wild at 16:57 of the third period. Spurgeon earned his 100th career point with the primary assist.

Jones was pulled with just over 90 seconds left in favor of an extra skater and Koivu added an empty net goal after stealing the puck from Dustin Brown to make it 4-1 Wild at 18:38 of the third period. Game over, Wild win.

Final shots on goal: Los Angeles Kings 32, Minnesota Wild 20


Trembley’s Take:

Let’s get some statistics out of the way first. At 95 points, the Minnesota Wild move past the Chicago Blackhawks and take 3rd place in the Central Division. Chicago is in a bit of a skid, but it also has two games in hand. Mikko Koivu is now the Wild’s all-time multi-point games leader, congratulations Mikko.

On the topic of Capitan Koivu and his line, I’m seriously impressed. That line mixes skill and physical play so well, and I haven’t seen Koivu develop so much chemistry with his linemates before. He’s having a bit of a resurgence and is hopefully getting hot at just the right time. It would be great to see him score 20 goals on the season, but I don’t see that happening unfortunately. Koivu was the first star of the game as assigned by the Wild media and rightfully so.

Chris Stewart continues to impress on the same line. Watching Stewart play with Koivu and Niederreiter strikes me as a timeline of the same player. Koivu is mentoring  Stewart back in to the style of game he had with Colorado while Stewart is teaching Niederreiter to be a bit more physical while still providing offensive prowess. I don’t see Niederreiter as a power forward, but he’s got a big frame that he could use a little more. Really great line combination by Mike Yeo.

Live Feed

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  • Niederreiter keeps showing all the different ways he can score. Backhand, wrist shot, slap shot, or deflection, it doesn’t seem to matter. Gaborik still owns the Wild’s franchise record for most goals in a season (42), but I think Niederreiter can break that. He’s just a few seasons away and stands as good of a chance as anybody.

    Devan Dubnyk was incredible again, making 31 saves and winning the game’s second star. During his one-ice interview, Dubnyk beamed with pride as his answers were drowned out by cheers of a grateful crowd.

    The Wild is off until Thursday, when the New York Rangers come to visit. I’m going to take a few days off, too. Talk to you then unless there’s news. Thanks for reading!!!

    Next: Kaapo Kähkönen Scores A Goal, Announcer Goes Nuts

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