ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Los Angeles Kings are fighting hard to stay in the playoff picture and will take wins any way they can get them.
Drew Doughty scored the deciding shootout goal and the Kings beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 on Tuesday night. The shootout was tied 1-1 after three rounds and Doughty scored the winner on the Kings’ fourth shot. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick denied Brent Burns, the Wild’s final shooter, to seal the win.
Doughty didn’t get much of a shot off against Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, but the puck somehow trickled into the net. The Kings’ regulation goal was knocked in by a Wild defender and the Kings escaped with two points.
“We wanted to win that game no matter how we were going to win it,” Doughty said.
Minnesota is 4-2 in shootouts and the Kings are 4-7.
Jack Johnson got credit for the Kings’ goal and Antii Miettinen scored for the Wild in regulation.
Miettinen scored a short-handed goal for the Wild in the second period. Mikko Koivu assisted on the 2-on-1 break for his 55th point this season, a career high.
Allowing a short-handed goal is tough to overcome, but the Kings came right back at the Wild.
“It’s down to crunch time for everybody in the game now,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “So play and lock away all the bad things that happened and come back with a solid shift after that. We responded.
“It was good.”
It was Minnesota’s fourth short-handed goal in its last eight games, but the team continues to struggle to score at even strength.
“You have to get goals on the power play or 5-on-5 if you want to win,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said.
Johnson was credited with a goal 10 minutes later to tie it. However, it was Minnesota’s Kim Johnsson who put the puck in the net. After a scrum in front, Johnsson mistakenly poked the puck past Backstrom.
“I think we got lucky on it,” Murray said. “To me it looked like it was just a clearing attempt by the defenceman and we got a lucky bounce on it.”
Lucky or not, neither team had many quality scoring chances in regulation.
Andrew Brunette returned to the Wild lineup after missing the last two games with a knee injury and was denied by Quick from in close with 1:40 to play in regulation.
Los Angeles’ Derek Armstrong was one-on-one with Backstrom after a Wild turnover, but couldn’t break the 1-1 tie earlier in the third period.
“You could see the teams are pretty equal,” Lemaire said. “The number of shots, the number of scoring chances, it is pretty identical. We needed a break somewhere, even on the shootout.
“You get a break there and you win.”
Los Angeles had lost three in a row, but is 9-4-2 in its last 15 games and entered Tuesday as the 12th best team in the Western Conference.
The Kings were only five points out of a playoff spot and Tuesday’s victory over a conference foe will go a long way toward helping them sneak into the playoff picture.
“We’re in a situation where we need to get points but if it comes down to any kind of tiebreaker we’re way behind in the win column,” Murray said.
“It was important for us to be aggressive in the overtime and throw everything out there that we could.”
Following a weekend sweep of Detroit and Chicago, the Wild are solidly in the playoff picture in the Western Conference.
Holding that playoff spot will be a challenge in the coming weeks as Minnesota plays 14 of its next 17 games on the road.
Notes: The Kings were without team captain Dustin Brown, who didn’t make the trip to Minnesota because his wife, Nicole, was expecting to give birth to the couple’s second child. … Almost a year after breaking his left leg in San Jose, Kurtis Foster rejoined the Wild. The sixth-year defenceman was a healthy scratch and the Wild will try to work him into the six-man rotation. … The Wild’s Owen Nolan missed the game with a broken toe. His long-term availability will be evaluated in the next few days. … The Kings recalled RW Teddy Purcell from AHL Manchester to replace Brown. Brown is expected to return sometime during the Kings’ current five-game road trip.