Darcy Kuemper is 1 year removed from starting the season as the Wild's number 1 goalie. Last night however, was his first regular season start since April 9th of last season, a 4 - 2 win over the Nashville Predators. As pivotal moments typically go, we are usually looking for some event or catalyst that turns a game around. Last night, that moment was Darcy Kuemper being on the ice when the puck dropped against the Los Angeles Kings.
Kuemper was nothing short of phenomenal Friday night. The Wild were lifeless for much of the game. Through 2 periods, they were being outshot 32 - 14, and those 14 shots for the Wild feels more like a gift from the stats people than anything else. If not for a nice pass from Milan Lucic and a great snipe from Tyler Toffoli, Darcy Kuemper would have had the Wild heading into the 3rd period in a scoreless tie. He was good under pressure, was tracking the puck well and wasn't a bit phased with the Kings crashing the net pretty hard for much of the game.
Kuemper was the about the only bright spot in a game where the Wild struggled to get there legs. They were terrible at clearing the puck out of the defensive zone, and were running into a brick wall in the neutral zone. It was a near constant onslaught against the young netminder through the opening 2 periods. The Wild didn't deserve to win the game, and the only reason they were able to muster up a loser point was because of a winning performance from Kuemper.
As far as pivotal moments go, Kuemper standing on his head all game qualifies in my opinion as being as pivotal moment as you could get in Friday nights action. The Wild did him no favors. This game could have gotten out of control early, and if not for Kuemper standing tall, and stopping 35 of 37 shots the Wild would not have even qualified for the loser point. Kuemper did not let in anything I would call soft. Lets face it, the Toffoli goal was pretty, and the GWG from Anze Kopitar in OT would have been difficult for anyone to stop. Kopitar was left all alone between the circles at the top of the slot. Kuemper was well out of his cage to cut down the angle, it was just a really good shot.
It was game winning performance from Dacry Kuemper, unfortunately the Wild were playing on the 2nd night of back-to-backs and didn't seem to get the memo that there was a hockey game until it was too late.