Tonight, the Minnesota Wild welcomed the Los Angeles Kings who were on a 5-game losing streak into the Xcel Energy Center. Tonight, they added onto the losing streak as the Wild pumped out a 4-1 win against what seemed to be a very frustrated Los Angeles Kings team.
You could tell right from puck drop the Wild were coming off a 4-day break. It took a couple minutes, but they finally shook off the rust and started playing well. Dubnyk continued to play great, stopping 7 of 7 and shutting down a couple of Kings chances. A couple minutes into the game Mikael Granlund sent a puck into the skates of Eric Staal that led to a semi-breakaway for Kings forward Tanner Pearson. Dubnyk responded with a big stop on Pearson, keeping the game scoreless. The Wild net minder continued to look razor sharp early, with a great backdoor save on Tyler Toffoli, then seconds later denying a blast from Drew Doughty at the point.
The Wild got their tires going around the 13-minute mark, with a fantastic shift from the Zucker-Staal-Nino line. The Wild started making plays and drove the play for much of the rest of the period.
In the middle of the first the Wild found themselves on the power play after a knee-to-knee hit from Kyle Clifford on Jordan Greenway. Ensuing after the hit was Wild defenseman Nick Seeler who dropped the gloves moments after the play, sticking up for his fellow rookie. (Don’t mess with the rooks.)
Call it as you will, but it looks dirty to me. I would suspect Clifford finds himself with a phone call from Head of the Department of Player Safety, George Parros. From there, who knows what will happen. Luckily, Jordan Greenway was fine after the hit, playing the rest of the game with no signs of injury.
Although the power-play did not go so well, play got chippy between the two teams, with veterans Zach Parise and Dion Phaneuf even getting into it. Their scuffle ended in both being sent to the box, creating 4-on-4 play for 2 minutes. Usually not a strong area for the Wild, but tonight they capitalized with a little extra ice.
A sliding Eric Fehr scored his 1st goal of the year and first in a Wild sweater. Marcus Foligno made the play happen as he made a quick bump around Kings defenseman Sean Walker before dishing it backdoor to Fehr, making it two straight games with at least a point for both Foligno and Fehr.
The 1st period ended with Wild heading into the locker room up 1-0 and tied in shots 7-7.
The Wild picked up where they left off in the 2nd period. Driving play and taking advantage of a frustrated LA Kings team. The Wild’s 4th line continued its great play during their first shift, with a great chance on a Dumba rocket from the blue line after a near minute of zone time and cycling the puck.
The frustration for the LA Kings continued as their star defenseman Drew Doughty took a cross checking penalty on Zach Parise in front of the net. Right away you could tell Doughty was irritated with the call on the ice, believing and pleading his case that Parise took a dive. Clearly though after looking at the play, Parise did not dive and it was a clear-as-day cross check. The Wild again were unable to capitalize on the man advantage again and did not have many great chances either.
Shortly after Doughty got out of the box and went by the Wild bench chirping at Parise, the Wild made him eat his words by gaining some insurance on the scoreboard. Jonas Brodin made it 2-0 good guys for his first of the year with 5:38 remaining in the period. The goal came by great puck movement from the Wild, Charlie Coyle laying out a nice back-handed feed to Brodin, and a great screen from the snake-bitten Nino Niederreiter. A good sign for both Brodin and Niederreiter going forward.
The Wild’s first penalty against came shortly after the goal, sending Mikko Koivu to the box for hooking after a long shift against the Kopitar line. The Wild bailed Koivu out, playing very good a man short. LA had little opportunity during their power play and Devan Dubnyk went into the third letting nothing behind him.
The Wild started the final frame off good, with Zach Parise getting an early chance not even a minute in. But after failing to capitalize, the Kings just kept coming. With 16:21 remaining in the period the Kings finally got on the board. A bad turnover by Nick Seeler after trying to force the puck cross ice, resulted in Kyle Clifford picking up the puck and sneaking it past Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk short side. Momentum changed in favor of the Kings following Clifford’s goal.
The Kings got their chances, and in the final 8 minutes of the game they had no excuses for not tying the game up at two apiece. The Wild were poking the bears (Kings) and seeing if they (Kings) were alive. Why not give them 3 power-plays in the final 8 minutes?
Jordan Greenway started the penalty train with a cross-check in the offensive zone on Kings defenseman Alec Martinez. The Kings failed to capitalize on their first man advantage of the third. A big part of that was the penalty kill work Marcus Foligno put in. He was outstanding clearing pucks, getting in lanes, and being an all out pest in the defensive zone.
Just as the Wild got off the penalty kill, they went back on. Literally. Jordan Greenway got penalty #2 as he played the puck with both his feet still in the penalty box. Again, the Wild killed off a penalty by the rookie. Next, it was Eric Staal’s turn to sit for two minutes. Staal got a penalty for delay of game, sending the puck over the boards and into the crowd from inside the defensive zone. Again, the Wild’s penalty kill got the job done and even got two “short-handed goals”. I put them in quotations because they count in the box score as short-handed but both goals were empty net goals.
While falling down Granlund got the first ENG as he shipped the puck across the ice, sealing the win for the Minnesota Wild. With a little over 30 seconds left the Kings pulled net minder Jack Campbell again, leading to the WIld’s 4th and final goal by captain Mikko Koivu. Eric Fehr had a lane to shoot for his second of the night but rather dished it unselfishly to Koivu.
It wasn’t pretty but the Wild improved their record to 5-2-2 with a 4-1 win over the Kings.
Next up, the Wild welcome the Colorado Avalanche to town Saturday night as they try to shut down Nathan MacKinnon & Friends.