Kings-Wild Recap: LA Breaks the Skid (in Overtime, No Less)
Two periods of endless pressure aren't enough, but Kopitar's game-winner certainly is.
Before we talk about anything else, I need to make sure you've watched 3-on-3 overtime. Here's the whole session, which took less than three minutes of real time.
OK! Now then, that was incredibly exciting, but it probably never should have gotten to overtime.
The Los Angeles Kings' 2-1 win was reminiscent of their second game of the season, against the Arizona Coyotes, in that it featured a dominant performance on a Friday night at Staples. Last week, the Kings were punished early and often due to some lapses in defensive zone coverage. This time, though, LA locked down in their own end, and aside from a heart-stopping moment when Jake Muzzin's pass up the middle missed Jeff Carter, they didn't let the Minnesota Wild get a whole lot at even strength.
From LA's perspective, the only reason this game got to overtime was Darcy Kuemper. The Minnesota backup (and former goalie for the Ontario Reign!) was sensational, continually turning away good chances for the Kings. If there was a flaw in his game, it was that he was giving up rebounds, but if you stop every second chance, what's the problem? The only goal the Kings scored in regulation was a power play rush goal by Tyler Toffoli; Jeff Carter burst into the zone with speed, Milan Lucic lasered a saucer pass about six inches off the ice, and Toffoli knocked it down before quickly putting the puck in the top corner.
The Kings would fail to find the net in 5-on-5 play, but that wasn't for lack of effort. LA fired 16 shots on goal (to Minnesota's 5) in the first, then repeated that number in the second period. The best other chances came, not surprisingly, on rebounds. Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar each had room but couldn't stuff loose pucks by Kuemper in the first, while Tanner Pearson had an agonizingly open net but fluffed his rebound attempt in the second. By the time Kuemper was done with his handiwork in the second, Jim Fox was in full "This is making me uneasy" mode, as he usually is in these types of games.
He was prescient, as the Wild took advantage of the fact that they were somehow still alive. The Kings' bottom six took three no-doubt offensive zone penalties in the third, with the first (Nick Shore, tripping) resulting in a power play goal. No fault to Jonathan Quick; after Brayden McNabb blocked painfully blocked a Zach Parise shot with his knee, Parise's second bid tipped off McNabb's stick and short-hopped on its way to the net. Quick made the save but Mikko Koivu pounced on the rebound.
Kuemper's efforts (and Kopitar's winner) overshadowed a poised, confident effort from Quick, who stopped the other 25 shots that came his way. The Kings' penalty kill, which didn't look great on the game-tying PK, rebounded and killed off Kyle Clifford's and Jordan Nolan's penalties in the final ten minutes. In a way, the Wild probably feel like they should've walked out with the two points given that Nolan's penalty was with 2:03 left; instead, they barely sniffed the LA net, and Trevor Lewis and Muzzin helped staple the puck to the boards for most of the final minute.
The Kings locked up a point with that, and thanks to Tanner Pearson's heads-up play and Anze Kopitar's pinpoint shot in OT, they made it two.
First Star (as voted by the readers): Dustin Brown
First Star (as voted by the media): Anze Kopitar