With the Western Conference playoff race so tight and the Minnesota Wild right in the thick of things entering Saturday’s game, a win and two points seem to weigh a little more heavy now.
The Wild went into Saturday’s matinee winning five out of the six previous games and their opponent on a bit of a heater themselves. The Los Angeles Kings went 7-2-1 in their past 10 games before puck drop. Two hot teams collided and the home team put a whooping on the visiting Wild team.
The Los Angeles Kings defeated the Minnesota Wild 7-3. The Wild trailed early and tried playing catch up for much of the game, never finding a lead for themselves for the full 60 minutes. Costly turnovers proved to be the demise of the Wild in Los Angeles. The Wild simply did not come to play on Saturday afternoon.
For the first time in the past seven games, Minnesota surrendered the first goal of the game. A turnover by Kevin Fiala in the offensive zone led to a 3-on-2 the other way and Anze Kopitar scored. The Kings captain corralled a rebound and slapped home an easy one for his 21st of the year.
The Kings established the game played their way from early on. Minnesota did not have a lot to work with and open ice was scarce. Los Angeles was playing much of the game using a 1-2-2 forecheck. This meant the team only sent one forward in on the forecheck as the other two forwards focused more on defense and limiting Wild scoring chances. Playing with a 1-2-2 forecheck, a team waits to create a turnover and then tries to score on those opportunities. This was evident, as the Wild found it hard to get the puck to the middle of the ice. Passes were tried and forced but Kings defenders intercepted or knocked passes away.
Finding a way around that style was something the Wild struggled with all through the game. Minnesota was able to tie the game just once after Kopitar’s goal. Just 13 seconds into the period following an Alex Galchenyuk face-off win, Mats Zuccarello backhanded a puck on net that popped out to linemate Marcus Foligno crashing the net. From there, the Wild big man made no mistake in burying the golden opportunity to tie things up, notching his 11th goal of the year.
Marcus Foligno 1-1 pic.twitter.com/0l01moiHYb— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) March 7, 2020
From there, things went for the worst. Turnovers were made and goals were surrendered by Minnesota.
Minnesota native Blake Lizotte scored a shorthanded goal to retake the lead. The play started from a Wild turnover as Galchenyuk threw a no-look pass towards the slot in the offensive zone that was intercepted by Adrian Kempe. The Kings forward then passed the puck over to Lizotte on the ensuing 2-on-1 and the forner Chicago Lakes Wildcat buried an easy one to beat a diving Stalock.
Quickly after Lizotte’s tally, the Kings potted another. Galchenyuk again caused a turnover less than a minute after he turned the one over that led to the Lizotte goal. With one too many stickhandles at the blue line, he lost the puck and then Kings forward Trevor Moore poked the puck around Wild defenseman Brad Hunt and was propelled on a a breakaway, 1-on-1 with Alex Stalock. The netminder went for the diving poke-check, but Moore quickly roofed it up and over Stalock, making that his sixth goal of the year.
The bad just kept coming for the Wild.
A fourth Kings goal came in the third period on a sequence of mistakes on the Wild’s part. Jonas Brodin found himself with the puck in the corner, seemed like he was unsure what he wanted to do with the puck, and turned it over. From there, the Kings made the Wild look downright silly. Dustin Brown notched what would be his first of three goals as Wild defenders were caught staring at the puck as a cross-ice feed from Kopitar to Ben Hutton found its way to Brown to put the Kings up three goals in the third period.
Despite the deficit, Minnesota showed some signs of life including a goal by Jared Spurgeon and later one by Luke Kunin.
One way to beat a team that keeps you to the outside and does a good job defending the middle of the ice, is to find offense from the point. Spurgeon received at point from Zuccarello and beat the right-handed Cal Peterson glove-side. The goal, his 12th of the year, propelled Spurgeon into the top 10 in the NHL for goals by a defenseman.
A few minutes later, the Wild inched closer to tying the game up as Luke Kunin finished off great work between himself, Foligno, and Jordan Greenway to come within one. That was Kunin’s 15th goal of the season, ranking him fourth on the team in goals scored this season.
With things tightening up, the Wild had a brief moment where it looked possible they could tie the game back up at four apiece and at least send the game to overtime for a much-needed point, but a defensive breakdown led to a Kings goal and Brown’s second of the period.
Matt Dumba started with a bad gap between himself and Brown. As a result, the Kings forward steamed past the Wild defenseman and drove straight to the far post to tuck one in to regain the two-goal lead for Los Angeles and eliminating any sniff of a comeback for Minnesota.
The Kings added two more goals to finish the final two minutes and 13 seconds.
Brown notched his hat trick on an empty-netter. This marked the sixth time in his career the two-time Stanley Cup champion has scored three goals in a game. A seventh goal was added for the Kings in the final minute as Gabe Vilardi sent a snap over the shoulder of Stalock to makes things worse.
It was too little, too late for Minnesota. Ultimately, the team had too many turnovers and didn’t play very well all night. The Wild didn’t deserve to win with the effort they played with and squandered a much-needed two points against the second worst team in the NHL standings. With the loss, Minnesota has dropped to 10th in the Western Conference.
The focus quickly shifts to tomorrow night for the Minnesota Wild as they take on yet another California team. The Wild head to “The Pond” and take on the Anaheim Ducks for a Sunday night showcase. Puck drop is at 8 p.m. CT.