LOS ANGELES – Only two players are left on Los Angeles roster from Eric Belanger’s final season with the Kings.
Alexander Frolov and Dustin Brown were both on the ice when their ex-teammate scored each of his two goals Monday night for the Minnesota Wild – including the go-ahead score with 2:25 remaining.
Defenceman Kim Johnsson scored during a power play, Martin Havlat also had a goal and Niklas Backstrom made 29 saves in Minnesota’s 4-3 victory, which ended Minnesota’s five-game losing streak against the Kings.
“The third period was a little hectic,” defenceman Nick Schultz said. “We wanted to try and play in their end a little bit more, but Nick made some good plays and weathered the storm.”
The Kings got goals from rookie Scott Parse and defencemen Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson. Jonathan Quick stopped 19 shots, including a breakaway by Antti Miettinen with 10:10 left. Los Angeles’ third straight defeat matched its longest losing streak of the season.
Trailing 3-1 after two periods, the Kings tied the score at 3 with 2:37 to play when Parse converted a pass from Brad Richardson with a slap shot from the right circle that beat Backstrom to the stick side.
But the Kings’ euphoria lasted just 12 seconds, as Belanger responded with a slap shot from the right circle that regained the lead for the Wild.
“They were down by two goals, and their defence was much more active and much more aggressive in the offensive zone,” Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. “But good teams find ways to win and character teams find ways to win. What a big goal by Belanger after they scored and had all the momentum. The crowd was boisterous and loud, and then our goal went in and put everyone back in their seats.”
Belanger has three goals in nine games against Los Angeles, the team he spent his first five NHL seasons with. Minnesota is the third team he has played for since the Kings traded him to Carolina in September 2006 in a multiplayer deal that brought Johnson to L.A.
“It’s unbelievable how quick that happened,” Doughty said. “Mentally, we had all the power there. We felt like, if we took it to overtime, we were going to win that game. Then they got that heartbreaker 12 seconds later. That can’t be happening if we want to win games.”
The Kings, 1-for-18 on the power play over their previous six games, got their only opportunity with the man advantage after Schultz was sent off for interference 45 seconds into the third period. They made it count, as Johnson’s one-timer from the right point caromed off Johnsson and past Backstrom.
After going 2-for-39 on the power play over their previous 10 games, the Wild grabbed a 2-1 lead at the 15-minute mark of the second period while Smyth was off for hooking Marek Zidlicky.
Andrew Brunette got the puck from Mikko Koivu at the edge of the crease and flipped a no-look backhanded pass to Johnsson, who had plenty of daylight with Quick out of position.
Belanger made it 3-1 just 62 seconds before the second intermission, converting a pass from behind the net by Owen Nolan.
Havlat opened the scoring at 4:23 of the second period with his seventh goal. He carried the puck into the Kings’ zone with Johnson the only defenceman back, and beat Quick to the stick side with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle.
The Kings, returning to Staples Center for the first time since Dec. 12 after a 1-3 road trip and playing before their fifth sellout, tied it at 11:36 of the second on a disputed goal that required a video review.
Backstrom stopped Richardson’s 35-foot wrist shot with his left leg, and Doughty lost his balance going for the juicy rebound at the right of the crease. But he managed to get his stick on the puck while sliding into Backstrom, and it slid across the goal line.
“In my opinion, I think it’s goalie interference,” Backstrom said. “I didn’t have a chance to make a save there.”
Minnesota’s first power-play chance came after Smyth was sent off for tripping Schultz at the seven-minute mark. Miettinen hit the right post with a 20-foot wrist shot about a minute later, then Kings forward Alexander Frolov was denied by Backstrom on a short-handed bid at the edge of the crease after stripping defenceman Shane Hnidy of the puck at the left boards.
NOTES: Teddy Purcell took over at RW on the Kings’ top line with C Anze Kopitar and LW Ryan Smith. He replaced Justin Williams, who broke his right ankle during Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Phoenix and underwent surgery on Monday. … Minnesota RW Chuck Kobasew was scratched because of an injured left knee, which occurred during a collision with St. Louis’ Keith Tkachuk. … Quick came in 4-0 with a 2.20 goals-against average in his four previous starts against Minnesota. He leads all NHL goalies with 36 games played and 2,166 minutes. … Eleven of the Kings’ last 13 games have been decided by one-goal margins (8-3-0). … The Kings haven’t scored more than three goals in any of their last seven games.