ST. PAUL, Minn. – A stumble in special teams efficiency has the Los Angeles Kings limping toward the playoffs.
Martin Havlat scored a power-play goal in the third period and the Minnesota Wild beat Los Angeles 3-2 on Monday. Owen Nolan and Brent Burns also scored for Minnesota, which kept its remote playoff chances alive.
Scott Parse scored twice for the Kings, 0-3-1 in their past four to tie their longest winless streak of the season. Los Angeles lost four straight from Dec. 17-30.
“This game was a lot different than the last three,” forward Dustin Brown said. “We had a lot of opportunities. Our special teams need to be better, that’s for sure, both penalty kill and power play, We have two 5-on-3s and don’t capitalize. It’s all about results this time of year. I’m not going to sit here and say we didn’t play a good game 5-on-5.”
The Kings, who gave up four power-play goals in Saturday’s loss to Dallas, allowed Minnesota to go 2 for 3 with the man advantage, including the game-winner.
With Andrew Brunette standing in front, Havlat took a pass from Marek Zidlicky and his slap shot from just inside the left point beat Jonathan Quick high on the glove side at 7:38.
After a streak of 29 consecutive kills, the Kings have given up eight power-play goals during their past 18 times playing short-handed during the four-game winless streak.
“On Havlat’s goal we made a wrong decision with too many guys chasing the puck carrier as he entered the zone, and you got late people coming in for the drop pass,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “It wasn’t a great play by Minnesota, it was more a breakdown on our part.”
Thirty-five seconds after Parse tied the game at 2 early in the third period with a one-timer, the Kings had a two-man advantage for 2 minutes, but could not convert.
Niklas Backstrom made one diving save and defenceman Greg Zanon blocked three slap shots from Jarret Stoll – one with his back as he laid out on the ice – before hobbling off the ice grimacing in pain.
“It’s just kind of instinct, just try to help the team win,” said Zanon, who is playing with a bad ankle. Nonetheless, he finished with six blocks.
Los Angeles is 2 for 18 on the power play the past three games.
“Had we scored there it would have been completely different,” Kings forward Wayne Simmonds said. “Obviously, they killed it off and scored on their power play right after that. That was the difference in the game.”
The Kings, who haven’t played in the post-season since 2002, are seventh in the tight Western Conference, four points behind fifth-place Nashville, which beat Florida 3-2 in overtime, and one point behind idle Detroit. Los Angeles plays at Nashville on Tuesday.
“We got to win. It’s as simple as that,” Parse said.
Minnesota is nine points behind eighth-place Colorado with six games left. The Avalanche have seven games remaining.
“It’s pride. It’s also our jobs. We just have to keep going,” Nolan said.
Nolan scored for the second straight game to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead at 1:19 of the second period, backhanding a rebound between the pads of Quick. The Wild have a power-play goal in a season-high five straight games.
Burns scored his first goal in 29 games during a four-on-four situation 6 minutes later. He took a pass from Mikko Koivu atop the left circle, fought off Brad Richardson as he cut to the slot, and lifted a shot over Quick on the stick side.
Parse cut the deficit to 2-1 at 12:47 when his slap shot from the blue line deflected off the skate of Casey Wellman behind Backstrom.
NOTES: Koivu, who missed the past two games with an upper-body injury, established career highs with 48 assists and 68 points. … Because G Erik Ersberg is out with a strained back, Los Angeles recalled G Jonathan Bernier from AHL Manchester under emergency conditions. … The Wild recalled G Anton Khudobin from AHL Houston to replace Josh Harding who aggravated his hip injury Friday. … D Matt Greene, who missed the last three games with an upper-body injury, returned for the Kings. … Kevin Love gave the ceremonial “Let’s Play Hockey!” before the game, becoming the first Minnesota Timberwolves player to do so. The NBA team has tied a franchise record by losing 16 straight games.