Minnesota Wild 4, Kings 3 (SO)
Eight keys to the game:
THE FACTS: Considering the situation -- the second road game in two nights at the back end of a four-game road trip -- the Kings would normally be satisfied escaping with a point Saturday night in St. Paul, Minn. But they were in great position to steal another against the Wild, holding a 3-2 lead with just over nine minutes remaining at Xcel Energy Center before unraveling down the stretch.
THE STAT: After finishing 10-2 in shootouts a year ago, the Kings fell to 6-8 this season. Jonathan Bernier, who started in goal for just the 14th time this season, failed to stop a shot in the shootout, falling to 1-3 in his career in the tiebreaker. Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom, meanwhile, improved to 17-29. If the Kings don’t make the playoffs, that’s one stat that will haunt them during the offseason.
TURNING POINT: Just as it appeared the Kings were on the verge of wrapping up their final multi-game road trip with three straight wins, Justin Falk skated straight at Kings rookie defenseman Slava Voynov, cut into the middle and dumped the puck off to Jason Zucker. He took a shot toward the net and the puck glanced off the left skate of Erik Christensen, redirecting it past Bernier. Christensen appeared to make a slight kicking motion, but it was unclear if the skate of Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell had bumped into Christensen’s and caused the motion. Regardless, the goal stood, tying the score, 3-3. The Kings killed off a four-minute power play in the final minutes of regulation, then failed to score on a power play of their own that extended into overtime. Later in the overtime, Minnesota forward Devin Setoguchi hit the post on a penalty shot, leaving the game to be decided in the shootout.
HOT: A healthy scratch in 12 of the previous 13 games before getting a chance to play Friday in Edmonton following the ankle injury to Jeff Carter, forward Brad Richardson scored two goals for the Kings, the last giving them a 3-2 lead 57 seconds into the second period. It appeared that might hold up as the game winner until Christensen’s goal.
NOT: The Kings have been brutal in the opening minutes the last two games. They allowed the Oilers to tie the score in the second minute Friday night, then gave up a goal on the first shot against the Wild, just 42 seconds into the game. After the Kings tied the score about three minutes later on Richardson’s first goal, the Wild needed just 17 seconds to take back the lead.
GOOD MOVE: The Kings came back to tie the score for a second time in the opening period, 2-2, on their second power-play goal in two games. Mike Richards sent a blast at Backstrom, who left a juicy rebound for Dustin Brown to shoot into the net with 4:29 left in the opening period. Anze Kopitar picked up one of his three assists on the play, and Brown also finished with a three-point night.
BAD MOVE: Under normal circumstances, coach Darryl Sutter’s decision to start Bernier would have made perfect sense. The Wild passed up the Kings as the lowest-scoring team in the NHL this month, Bernier shut out Minnesota, 4-0, on Feb. 28 at Xcel Energy Center, and the Kings had played the night before in Edmonton. But with just four games remaining in the regular season and the Kings in a mad scramble for one of the final three playoff spots, the safest move would’ve been to start Jonathan Quick, who had allowed just two goals in his last three starts, all on the current road trip. At least Quick should be fresh for Monday’s huge game against the visiting Oilers.
NOTABLE: The Wild have now won six times when trailing heading into the final period, tied for fourth-most in the NHL. The Kings have won just once this season when trailing after two periods, tied for last in the league.
UP NEXT: Monday vs. the Edmonton Oilers at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.