Minnesota Wild 2-3 (so) Los Angeles Kings
Let's be honest, the Wild were lucky to get away with the loser point tonight. The Kings missed at least three empty nets, including a game-saver by Guillaume Latendresse as he dove in front of Ryan Smyth who apparently went temporarily blind with a yawning cage in front of him and swatted Smyth's attempt on net away with his stick shaft.
So, tonight's game. Well, Bryan's going to cover the ins and outs of the flow of play, so I'll get to the nitty-gritty. Tonight, the Wild once again proved that they can work really hard and get the ugly goals and counter-attack when they want to. The problem is either they don't have the personnel to do so for 60 minutes (possible), don't have the top-end talent to make the most of the breaks they are given (likely) or simply aren't motivated to work their butts off every shift (sad, but it's looking like this is the likely candidate). In stretches, this team can control a game, but they simply haven't shown that they can do it for an entire game.
When they worked, they got one garbage goal for John Madden and one deflection for Nick Schultz. These were the direct result of aggressive play, creating traffic, moving feet and working hard in the offensive zone. When they didn't work, they took lazy penalties for reaching, got behind the play and caused Niklas Backstrom to bail them out, and failed to take advantage of a five minute power play.
On that major ...
In case you didn't hear, the league is cracking down on contact to the head. Example:
The Wild kicked off a five game home stand tonight with another half-hearted effort, deserving of the boos that were rained down on them to end the overtime period. At one point, Russo tweeted that the Wild did not have a SOG for 11:29 between the 3rd and OT. The effort out of this team over the past three games is sickening, even if they do have points to show for them.
The first period was mixed bag. They played good enough to skate into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead, but they also took four minors in the opening frame, giving the Kings to many chances at the pie, and the final minor coming away from the puck just eight seconds into their own power play.
As for scoring, the Wild got two very fortunate bounces, with John Madden being left all alone to drive home a rebound that bounced right to him, and a Dustin Brown deflection of a Nick Schultz shot from the point. Both were hard work goals (Sorry, Tom), and both were well deserved. However, neither were pretty. The Kings pulled back within one on their third powerplay of the night, something the Wild need to fix if this season is going to go well.
The second period was... get this... terrible. They Wild came out completely flat, were *gasp* outworked for most of the period, and were even given a full five minute powerplay after a head shot to Miettinen by Kings captain Dustin Brown, who also got the automatic game misconduct due to the call. Could the Wild show a killer instinct? Not exactly. Four shots on goal during those five minutes. Four.
To end the frame, the Wild would take more penalties, including giving the Kings 1:03 of 5-3 powerplay time, of which the Kings would need about three seconds of before tying the game at two, with 1:37 of PP time to start the third. The Kings would also miss three wide open nets in the period, or the Wild would be down 5-2.
After the Brown hit, the Wild did exactly the opposite of what would be expected. Rather than rallying and putting a new found head of steam into the game, they simply went into their shell, rode out the final 30 minutes, went to overtime, rode that out as well, and went to a shootout.
The Wild showed zero pressure in this game. They sat back and watched as the Kings set up behind the net, sat and watched as the Kings cycled on the powerplay, and had very little of anything that could be called a forecheck. They did not deserve the point they got from this game, but I guess they'll take it.
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars:
Anze Kopitar (1 G, 1 A, 1 shoot-out goal)
- Nick Schultz (1 G, 24:35 TOI, +1)
- Jack Johnson (2 A)
- Can the Wild's special teams win them another game? No. They failed to score on a major power play, went 0/4 with the man advantage, but only managed to give up one goal on seven power plays for the Kings.
- Does Guillaume Latendresse continue to bounce from line to line? 14:23 TOI, he's still over 2:00 behind Martin Havlat, and is still taking plays off. I'd really like to know what's going on with him. Is it a lack of effort? Is there a battle brewing with Richards?
- What type of effort do the home fans get tonight? Not a very good one, honestly. This won't put butts in seats.
- Backstrom bobblehead night. Can he live up to the pressure? Backstrom was solid tonight, until they got to the shootout. He's just brutal there.
- First of five at home. Can the Wild get started on the right foot? Hey, at least they got 1 point!
- BONUS: Can the Wild put together a 60 minute effort? No. Not at all. Not even close.