ST. PAUL, Minn. – If the Los Angeles Kings are going to make a surprise run at the playoffs, captain Dustin Brown knows now is the time to start.
“This is crunch time for a lot of teams,” Brown said. “This is when teams start getting separated.” Kyle Calder had a goal and an assist to help the Kings end a four-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.
The NHL’s lowest-scoring team, the Kings were 0-for-26 on the power play during their skid until Anze Kopitar scored with the man advantage at 7:18 of the second period to put Los Angeles ahead 2-1. Brown stretched the lead to two 1:14 later.
Derek Armstrong also had a goal and Patrick O’Sullivan added an empty-netter for the Kings, who got two assists apiece from defencemen Drew Doughty and Matt Greene. Jonathan Quick made 25 saves.
Owen Nolan and Marek Zidlicky scored for the Wild.
The Kings began the day eight points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“We’ve got to get some momentum going and get on a roll,” Greene said. “Everybody else is winning, and we’ve just got to get some points and stay in the hunt.”
Coming off a convincing road win at Chicago on Monday night, Minnesota appeared sluggish and was unable to hold down the normally punchless Kings.
“Sometimes you can say it was our game last night, but then you say, ‘Well, how come last night, after two periods, we can skate?”‘ Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. “So I have a hard time with using last night’s game as an excuse.”
Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, the team’s lone all-star who ranks among the league leaders in several major categories, stopped 40 shots on Monday. But he couldn’t make up for a sloppy Minnesota defence Tuesday and allowed four goals through two periods before being replaced by Josh Harding to start the third.
“Tired legs? I don’t know about tired legs,” Backstrom said. “I think our game wasn’t there. I don’t know why. It was completely different from yesterday. We can’t play like this.”
Calder used a screen from Brown to score his fifth goal of the season and give Los Angeles a 1-0 lead midway through the first period.
Minnesota tied it two minutes later on the power play when Nolan batted a puck out of the air and past Quick. Zidlicky cut the Kings’ advantage to 3-2 with a power-play goal in the second.
Normally, a couple of power-play goals and Backstrom are all the Wild need to secure a win. Not this time.
“That goal by Armstrong was huge,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “When you get a goal from your fourth line, that’s a pretty big lift.”
The Kings held Minnesota to 14 shots through two periods and 27 for the game. Unless it was on the power play, Minnesota had a difficult time getting good shots.
Quick improved to 5-5 on the season.
Outscored 15-4 during their losing streak, the Kings put the pressure on early against a Wild team that played a road game the night before. Los Angeles ended the first period with a five-shot flurry on the power play and led 3-1 before the second period was eight minutes old.
Sullivan added an empty-net goal with four seconds left.
The Wild have struggled to score even-strength goals all season, yet entered Tuesday tied for eighth in the Western Conference. The team continues to try and find enough scoring to replace Brian Rolston and Pavol Demitra, who left as free agents in the off-season, and Marian Gaborik, out for most of the season with a hip injury. Those three players combined for 196 points in 2007-08.
“I think we should be a little higher in the standings before the break,” Minnesota defenceman Martin Skoula said. “It’s only up to us. We’re not where we’re supposed to be.”
Notes: Zidlicky’s goal was his 200th career point. All nine of his goals this season have come on the power play, a team record. … It was Doughty’s third career multi-point game. … Raitis Ivanans, 6-foot-4 and 256 pounds, and 6-8, 257-pound Derek Boogaard squared off for a fight midway through the third. … The Wild recalled wing Danny Irmen from Houston of the AHL. The former University of Minnesota standout and 2003 third-round pick didn’t play and has yet to appear in an NHL game.