LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Minor league call-up Darcy Kuemper looked totally different than he did in his two other appearances with the Minnesota Wild this season.
The Los Angeles Kings were quite impressed.
Kuemper made 17 of his 39 saves during the first period in his fifth NHL start, a 2-1 victory over the Kings on Tuesday night.
Nino Niederreiter scored the tying goal early in the third period and netted the only goal in a four-round shootout.
“Everyone battled hard,” Kuemper said. “We bent a few times, but didn’t break. We did a really good job of picking up sticks and eliminating second chances, and that made it a lot easier on me.”
Kuemper’s earlier outings were forgettable. On Oct. 15, he allowed three goals on seven shots before getting pulled from his start at Toronto. On Nov. 19, he let in three goals on nine shots in a relief appearance at Montreal.
“It was a chance to redeem myself. My game is definitely where I want it to be right now,” Kuemper said. “I’ve been working on it a lot and playing good down there, so I tried not to change anything when I came up here. It worked out pretty good tonight.”
The Wild, playing their first game since captain and leading scorer Mikko Koivu broke his ankle Saturday at Washington, have won three straight for the first time since Nov. 1-5.
“It’s a start,” coach Mike Yeo said. “I’m really happy for Darcy. He kind of got thrown into a game where he wasn’t quite expecting to play until this morning, and he responded extremely well.”
Jarret Stoll scored for the Kings, and Jonathan Quick made 16 saves in his second straight start after missing 24 games because of a groin injury.
“Quick didn’t have a lot of work, but he had to make some good saves for us,” coach Darryl Sutter said. “Their guy had a lot of work and made a lot of saves. We had some unfinished opportunities.
“You can’t always expect the big guys to score all of the time. We need to get more secondary scoring, and more opportunities from our defence.”
Coming off a 5-3 victory in which they were outshot 30-11 by the Capitals, the Wild were outshot 30-9 by the Kings through the first two periods.
“He played great. You’ve got to give him credit for sure,” Stoll said of Kuemper. “He’s a big guy, moves well, is very athletic, and he worked hard to see pucks.”
Kuemper stopped seven shots during the Kings’ first power play, which came after Matt Cooke was sent off for slashing at 6:47 of the second. The 6-foot-5 goalie got a break midway through the period, when Dwight King hit the right post with a shot from the left point after a turnover by defenceman Keith Ballard.
“We outplayed them for 60 minutes, and their goalie made some big saves to keep them in there,” Quick said.
Another Kings scoring chance came with about 5 minutes left in the first when Jeff Carter stickhandled around Ryan Suter in the left circle and found King cruising down the slot, but he fanned on the shot.
The Kings are 1-5-1 in their last seven games and have scored only 10 goals during that stretch.
“We have to bear down. I keep saying it, but it was the story of the game,” Stoll said. “It’s a matter of putting the puck in the net and capitalizing on the opportunities, as opposed to just getting shots. Goalies are there to make saves—and we’re not making it hard enough on goaltenders right now.
“It doesn’t matter what the shot total is. The only thing that matters is the scoreboard.”
The Kings got on the board 50 seconds into the third. Carter got the puck from King along the right boards in the Minnesota zone and circled the net before setting up Stoll in the low slot. It was Stoll’s sixth of the season and first in his last 12 games against the Wild.
Minnesota tied it at 3:25 when Jason Pominville set up Niederreiter in front of the crease with a pass from the right point after Niederreiter got a step behind defenceman Drew Doughty.
It was the ninth goal for the third-year forward, who was named to Switzerland’s Olympic roster.
NOTES: Wild forward Zach Parise (lower body) missed his seventh straight game. … Minnesota G Josh Harding, who was pulled from each of his two starts at Los Angeles, missed his third straight game as he adjusts to new medication for multiple sclerosis. … Kings C Mike Richards hasn’t scored in 19 games, the third-longest drought of his nine-year NHL career. … The Kings are 5 for 65 on the power play over their last 22 games. … Los Angeles had a club-record six players chosen for the upcoming Olympics: Carter and Doughty (Canada), Quick and Dustin Brown (USA), Anze Kopitar (Slovenia) and Slava Voynov (Russia). … Minnesota’s 7-12-3 road record is the second-worst in the NHL, ahead of only Buffalo.