ST. PAUL, Minn. – An unlikely offensive source helped the Minnesota Wild gain an important two points.
Martin Skoula scored with 1:15 left in overtime and Minnesota gained sole possession of the division lead with a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.
Marian Gaborik also scored for Minnesota, which moved two points ahead of Calgary atop the Northwest Division, and five points ahead of Colorado and Vancouver, which lost 4-1 in Chicago.
Standing at the right of the crease, Skoula took a pass from Gaborik below the goal line and poked the puck between the pads of Erik Ersberg.
“I was just kind of waiting for the whistle, but nobody blew the whistle. I kept looking and it was in the net,” Skoula said. It was his first goal in 23 games, and third in 145 outings with Minnesota.
The last seven Wild wins have all been by one goal. Minnesota has won 21 games by one goal, tying the New York Islanders for tops in the league.
“This is a good way to learn how to play under pressure a little bit and when there’s a tight game,” Gaborik said. “We need to do a big push, and I think this is going to be a good learning experience for us to go to playoffs.”
Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire thought the game might be easier than usual. Last in the league with 56 points, the Kings lost 5-2 in Colorado 24 hours earlier.
“They really played hard last night, but they came out with more energy than we did,” he said. “It won’t be easy. It can’t be.”
Michael Cammalleri scored for Los Angeles, which lost its fifth straight road game. Ersberg stopped 33 shots in his first career start.
“I thought our guys played terrific tonight and we deserved a better fate. But it was a close game. They are used to playing those close games, and they got a nice goal to win it. It was a good play, an honest goal, so you can’t really complain too much,” Kings coach Marc Crawford said.
Four games into a five-game stretch against teams currently out of the playoff race, Minnesota is 3-1. The Wild lost at Washington Tuesday before winning at Tampa Bay Wednesday and Florida Friday. Minnesota plays Chicago at home Tuesday.
“You look at this team and how (the Kings) played today, its a really great hockey team, a lot of talent, a lot of skill players,” Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom said. “They made it really tough for us. You look at the standings and its hard to believe they are down there.”
Cammalleri put the Kings up 1-0 late in the opening period. He controlled a rebound off the end boards, and from the goal line, put the puck on net. As Backstrom slid back across the crease, the puck deflected off his stick and across the line. It was Cammalleri’s third goal in four games.
In his first career game as team captain, Gaborik deflected a shot from Brent Burns over the left shoulder of Ersberg early in the second period to tie the game.
The assist was Burns’ 34th point, tying him with Lubomir Sekeras (2000-01) for the most points in a season by a Wild defenseman. Burns, who played a team-high 28:37, has played at least 24 minutes in 11 of 14 games, after playing that much 10 times in the team’s first 52 games.
Pavol Demitra hit the post during a Minnesota power play in the third period.
It was one of the few pucks Ersberg didn’t stop. He moved well in the crease, controlled rebounds and was quick with his glove, especially on a first period save to rob Chris Simon from the right circle.
“It’s a little bitter when you end up losing the game, but we got one point and I’m happy with my performance,” Ersberg said.
Notes: Minnesota C Mikko Koivu was a late scratch due to the flu. … Cammalleri’s goal was his 200th career point. … Ersberg, who spent the last two years in Sweden, was called up from AHL Manchester Feb. 21. He played 31 minutes of relief Feb. 23 at Chicago before losing in overtime. … LW Alexander Frolov had one assist for the Kings, and now has 18 points in 13 games. … Minnesota D Petteri Nummelin left the game in the second period with a right thigh injury. He is to be further evaluated Monday.