LOS ANGELES—At least the Kings are living up to expectations lately.
They arrived at Staples Center on Thursday night with the worst offense in the NHL, lined up against an opponent with the best record and third-stingiest defense and then proceeded to dig themselves a hole right off the opening faceoff.
The Minnesota Wild scored 24 seconds into the game to give rookie goalie Matt Hackett some wiggle room in his first NHL start and they didn’t let up, cruising to a surgical 4-2 victory against the offensively zapped Kings.
Kings coach Terry Murray spent more time than usual speaking with the team after the game, trying to coax them into taking more responsibility for their individual efforts.
“Minnesota is the No. 1 team in the league right now. They’re a good team with good balance, but they work hard, they’re intense, and their attitude is right,” Murray said. “I like our team a lot. We’ve got good people, most every game we bring the right attitude with the right competitiveness, but it has to be there for 60 minutes. That’s the start of the game, the start of the second period … those things are the difference today.”
The Kings did avoid their third shutout in 15 games at Staples Center by scoring two third-period goals, but were still held to two goals or less for the seventh consecutive game.
“We are going to have to score some goals, it’s as simple as that,” said Kings forward Anze Kopitar, the leading goal scorer last season who hasn’t scored in seven games. “It doesn’t matter how, deflections or rebounds, we need to pick the corner.”
The Kings put up a season-high 44 shots on goal against Hackett, a 21-year-old who made his first NHL appearance in relief of an injured Josh Harding on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks.
After the Wild took a 2-0 lead in the opening minutes of the second period, the Kings had a golden opportunity to cut into the lead a few minutes later when Kopitar was shouldered violently into the boards by Minnesota center Kyle Brodziak, resulting in a five-minute boarding penalty and game misconduct for Brodziak.
The Kings managed to get off 10 shots during the ensuing power play, but eight were off mark and one was blocked.
“We’ve got to find a way to capitalize,” said Kings forward Dustin Brown.
Brown, who had a career-high 12 hits against the Wild, was guilty of turning the puck over just prior to the Wild’s second goal, which came off the stick of Darroll Powe.
“I just couldn’t make a strong play and then it was in our net and it was 2-0,” Brown said. “It’s a tough team to play against when you are down 2-0.”
Especially when your offense is struggling to score as badly as the Kings.