The Minnesota Wild have not been a great road team so far this season while the Los Angeles Kings have not been a great home team. Through the first 40 minutes, this game was incredibly boring. Then the third period Kings showed up and things got a little more interesting.
The first period saw very little action on either side of the ice. LA had one great shift where they had four great shots in a row and then Minnesota had a good chance off a Jason Zucker shot but that’s about it. Oh, and Kurtis MacDermid fought Chris Stewart early in the game for ~reasons. Something about a big hit that Stewart wasn’t happy with according to the TV broadcast.
The scoring started about halfway into the second period. Charlie Coyle beat out Adrian Kempe for a deflection in front of the net. Ugh, okay fine. Jake Muzzin tied the game a few minutes later on a wicked slap shot from just beyond the top of the circle. And then 70 seconds after that, Tyler Ennis gave the Wild the lead again. A lot of sloppiness in the Kings’ defensive zone led to that goal. Up until those goals, the game had still been pretty low-key. Even following the offense, things didn’t exactly pick up. There were only 14 shot attempts a piece, according to Natural Stat Trick. That’s not terribly exciting.
Then the third period rolled around and something weird happened. On both the eventual game-winner and secondary-insurance goals, the puck deflected off a Minnesota player. But before that happened, Marian Gaborik tied the game. Anze Kopitar managed to get in behind Minnesota’s defense and started a 2-on-1 with Gaborik. The goalie had to respect the shooter and the Kings captain waited until the very last minute to dish to Gaborik, who put it in the empty cage.
First, Adrian Kempe sent a long range shot across the goal crease and Devan Dubnyk’s attempt to steer the shot into a corner instead of up the middle of the ice hit Jonas Brodin ’s skate and ricocheted back into the net.
Then, 90 seconds later, Gaborik scored his 400th career goal for his 800th career point off the faceoff. Kopitar won the draw and Gaborik settled the rolling puck before firing on net. The puck deflected off Matt Dumba’s stick and changed directions on its way to the net. No chance for Dubnyk on that play at all.
The chess match had been broken open by some extreme good fortune (as is usually wont to happen in these types of games) with not much time left for the Wild to recover. In fact, Gaborik’s goal came with only six minutes remaining in the game. Naturally you’d think even with so little time left, the Wild would push back but they really didn’t. Full credit goes to the Kings for their excellent defense in snuffing out any potential comeback attempts.
Around the 58 minute mark, Bruce Boudreau pulled the goalie for a 6-on-5 attempt. Gaborik started to breakaway but Eric Staal hooked him from behind to prevent the artificial hat trick in the empty net. After that, it was just puck management for LA. They were careful to cycle and play keep away with Minnesota players.
Postgame, Gaborik admitted that he was happy that his milestone goal came against his former team. As far as a new line combination (after Kempe’s goal, John Stevens started to play Dustin Brown, Kopitar, and Gaborik together), he brushed it off, saying it’s only a quarter of the season, lines always change and they have a strong team, everybody can play with everybody else, they all trust each other.
In many ways, this game was like a throwback Darryl Sutter game. The tight checking, good chances, out corsi-ing and outshooting the other team before finally bursting through with a fortunate bounce or two.