ST. PAUL, Minn. – If Los Angeles Kings coach Terry Murray was looking for a statement win to carry his team into the second half of the season, he got it.
Alexander Frolov scored twice and Michal Handzus added a goal and an assist as the Kings snapped a four-game losing streak by beating the Minnesota Wild 5-2 on Thursday night.
“That’s a character win. That’s digging in and playing with the right kind of an attitude to get back into the win column,” Murray said.
Brad Richardson and Ryan Smyth also scored for the Kings, 5-2-1 on the second night of back-to-back games. The Kings didn’t arrive in Minnesota until early Thursday morning after losing a hard-hitting game at Calgary on Wednesday.
Andrew Brunette and Owen Nolan scored for Minnesota, which failed to close out a strong December with a win. After starting 3-9, the Wild have picked up their play. They were 10-4 in December before losing their final two games.
“We’ve got to find a way to get ourselves out of the funk if we want to be making our way up to the top, or moving ourselves up into a playoff spot,” Wild defenceman Greg Zanon said. “We’re going to have to be winning games. We can’t be losing back-to-back games.”
Los Angeles led 3-0 after the first period on goals by Richardson, Frolov and Smyth. Eight players notched points in the first.
Smyth held nothing back in celebrating his goal, his first since Nov. 11. The winger missed 15 games because of an upper body injury.
The energy and excitement Smyth displayed during his celebration was similar to the attitude of the entire Kings team in the first period.
“I thought we had a hard-fought battle in Calgary. It was a physical, draining game,” Smyth said. “When you fall short like that, it’s hard on players mentally. We feel like we should’ve come out with a point or two from that game but we didn’t and we came with a sense of urgency tonight. Sometimes you sit back on the second game of a back-to-back, and tonight we didn’t do that at all.”
Handzus made it 4-0 early in the second on a cross-ice one-timer. The Kings were skating with a 6-on-5 advantage because goalie Jonathan Quick went off during a delayed penalty call.
“We just took it to them all night, right from the beginning,” Kings defenceman Rob Scuderi said.
Minnesota has come from behind in 11 of its 20 wins, but the early four-goal deficit was too much to overcome. The Wild lost for the second time in their last eight home games.
Nolan scored with just over six minutes remaining and Minnesota had two power plays as it tried to tie the game. But the Kings’ penalty-killers limited the Wild’s chances on both.
“From the start it wasn’t good and it just continued pretty much for 60 minutes,” Wild coach Todd Richards said.
The improved special teams play is one reason Murray is pleased with his team at the midpoint of the season.
“I’m happy with where we’re at. As far as our overall team play from game one, it’s been very good at times,” he said. “We’ve hit a few bumps along the way. Overall, we’re pleased. Not satisfied, but pleased.”
Frolov’s second goal was scored into an empty net with 1:38 remaining.
NOTES: Petr Sykora returned for the Wild after missing 24 games because of a concussion. Brent Burns and Pierre-Marc Bouchard remain out with concussions. Burns has skated the past three days. … Kings F Jarret Stoll missed another game due to a groin injury. … A section of the ice was littered with eight sticks and 11 gloves after a skirmish was cleared at the end of the second period. Four players were sent to the penalty box to start the third.