ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Los Angeles Kings are heading home tied for the Pacific Division lead. Even though they let a point slip away in Minnesota, they’re not lamenting the missed opportunity too much. They prefer to look at their overall body of work the past week.
Erik Christensen and Mikko Koivu scored in a shootout, and the Wild rallied to beat the Kings 4-3 on Saturday night.
Darroll Powe, Nick Johnson and Christensen scored in regulation for the Wild, who won their second straight. Niklas Backstrom had 26 saves, then stopped both Los Angeles shootout attempts.
Brad Richardson scored twice and Dustin Brown had a goal for the Kings, who fell into a first-place tie with Phoenix. Anze Kopitar had three assists and Jonathan Bernier made 20 saves, but Los Angeles lost for the first time in three games.
The game marked the end of a four-games-in-six-nights trip for the Kings that started Monday in Vancouver with stops Wednesday in Calgary and Friday in Edmonton.
“Five out of six (points) in less than four days. I think if you’d have said that any other time other than right now, you’d say it was great,” coach Darryl Sutter said.
Everything is magnified, however, with a week to play in the regular season.
The Kings have three games remaining: home against Edmonton on Monday and a home-and-home with the San Jose Sharks.
“For us, right now where we are in the standings, we need the points bad. It doesn’t matter whether we’re playing a team that’s in it or out of it,” defenceman Rob Scuderi said. “But to their credit, I think they played very well. They didn’t give up too much. I thought they played real tight defensively.”
Both teams had excellent scoring opportunities in overtime. Mike Richards was robbed on a left pad save by Backstrom, and the Wild’s Devin Setoguchi hit the left post on a penalty shot.
Minnesota tied the game midway through the third period when a shot from Jason Zucker deflected off the stick of Los Angeles defenceman Slava Voynov and then off the skate of Christensen behind Bernier. The play was upheld by video review.
“I think we left one on the table. That’s not too often we blow leads,” Brown said.
With his team out of the playoff picture, coach Mike Yeo said the Wild aren’t focused on playing spoiler.
“We take a lot more satisfaction out of doing things the right way and keeping up with the standards we have for ourselves than we do in beating somebody else and hurting their chances,” he said.
With the game tied 2-all less than a minute into the second period, Richardson, who had just three goals in 55 games, gave Los Angeles its first lead. After leaving the puck for Kopitar in the left circle, Richardson began to circle behind the net just as Kopitar’s shot went off the end boards. Richardson grabbed the loose puck, skated out from behind the net and put the puck into the unoccupied goal.
Powe put the Wild up 1-0 just 40 seconds into the game, tipping a slap shot from Nate Prosser just inside the right post.
Three minutes later, the teams swapped goals in a 17-second span.
First, Richardson scored on a rebound to tie the game, but Johnson countered with a rebound goal of his own. Zucker outmuscled defenceman Matt Greene through the left circle and to the left post where the duo collided with Bernier. As the puck lay alone in the crease, Johnson swooped in for the easy goal. It was Zucker’s first career point in his second NHL game.
“You look at all the goals that are scored in the league, 90 per cent or 95 per cent are going to be scored like that, just going to the net,” Christensen said. “You’re not going to score a lot of pretty goals.”
Brown tied the game with a power-play goal late in the opening period, tucking a rebound of Richards’ shot past Backstrom.
NOTES: Los Angeles in 6-8 in shootouts; Minnesota 9-8. … Richardson has three career two-goal games, the last coming on Oct. 23, 2010. … Kopitar has 21 points in his past 17 games. … Los Angeles C Jeff Carter missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. He is expected to see a specialist early next week. … Wild D Marco Scandella was scratched with an upper body injury. … Christensenhas six goals in his past 10 games.