Around the NHL: LA Kings finally win

The sad reality of the Los Angeles Kings being only the eighth team in NHL history to miss the playoffs after winning the Stanley Cup was creeping up on them after losing their first three games of the season in blowout fashion. Thankfully for them, fourth time is a charm, as they breathe a strong sigh of relief after defeating the Minnesota Wild in overtime 2-1.

“It’s definitely a big step for us,” Kings forward Jeff Carter said. “The first two games were pretty much a wash for us; we didn’t really get anything out of them. I’m glad we came out with a better mindset right from that. We played more our style of game and when we do that, usually good things happen.”

“A lot of times that first one is the hardest to get,” Kings forward Milan Lucic said. “You saw here tonight how difficult it was, once again, to get that victory. Obviously [Jonathan] Quick was real good for us today to keep us in it, especially in that third period. For us I thought our game as a full 60-minute effort was much, much better. We were able to establish more zone time, we were better through the neutral zone, and we were better supporting each other. I think that’s how we were able to get more chances. It’s just about executing and finishing them off now. I think we have to build from what we did here tonight and stay on ourselves and stay on each other to keep getting better.”

After getting outscored 12-2 in the first three games and showing little life on offense, the Kings came out onto the ice with a vengeance, outshooting the Wild 32-14 through the first two periods of the game. The first goal of the game came in the second period as the Kings first power play goal of the game. Tyler Toffoli got a cross-ice pass from Milan Lucic to beat Minnesota goalie Darcy Kuemper over his left shoulder with a short wrist shot for the goal.

“It was embarrassing the way the first three games went,” Lucic said, adding that, “Tonight, we were engaged right from the drop of the puck.”

“We had a lot of good looks,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said on power play opportunities.  “We had net presence and the most important part is you have to shoot the puck. If you don’t shoot you won’t win.”

Minnesota center Mikko Koivu tied the game in the third period one minute after Kings center Nick Shore was sent away for tripping defenseman Jonas Brodin. Wild forward Zach Parise’s one-timer shot deflected off the stick of Kings defenseman Brayden McNabb and into goalie Jonathan Quick’s pads, but Koivu backhanded the rebound past him, setting the stage for overtime.

“We came out strong,” Koivu said. “Obviously we were one goal behind and we recognized that. We didn’t play badly but we know we can play a little bit better and get more offensive like we did in the third.”

Penalties helped the Kings score their goal, but their recklessness helped the Wild pull even.

“It’s good to be reckless, but be reckless under control a little bit,” Lucic said. “That physical part of the game is something we can’t take out of our game. Just because we took some O-zone penalties tonight, we can’t take that aggressiveness out of our game. Especially with Clifford and Nolan, they’re two guys that play on the edge and we need them to play on the edge. Penalties are going to happen but at the end of the day, we need them to be aggressive and play a little bit reckless, but reckless under control.”

In in effort to curb down shootouts, the NHL made overtimes crazier. It’s now 3-on-3, sudden death, when one mistake sets the other team up for a shootout situation. Anze Kopitar scored the game winning goal as the sold-out Staples Center crowd erupt in elation.

“We’ve had a few chances there in pre-season to get a read on it,” Carter said. “It’s different, for sure. You can’t lose your gut or else you’re pretty much screwed, but it’s fun. It’s exciting for the fans, it’s back and forth, and it’s a lot of fun.”

“It was up and down,” Koivu said. “It’s going to be like that. I haven’t seen any others this year but I’m sure it’s going to be like that. It’s six players on the ice and whenever you get the puck at least one guy is beat already. I’m sure it’s fun for the fans and for the game.”

Despite the loss, Minnesota coach Mike Yeo didn’t leave the arena with his head down. In fact, it was one of the rare instances that a coach hints at achieving a moral victory.

“I’m not concerned at all, I’m encouraged,” Yeo said. “I’m encouraged by number one, the play of [Darcy] Kuemper). Back-to-back games, we knew what we were going to face tonight; a winless team. It’s not like they’re a team you expect to be winless at this point. We knew we were coming into a hornet’s nest and we definitely weren’t on top it, but I’m very proud and very pleased the way we responded in the third period.”

“Sometimes it’s nice to have your first game be like that to get a feel for it,” said Kuemper, who stopped 35 shots in his season debut. “You haven’t had those game reps, besides the pre-season, so to get some extra work in is nice. It was a tough spot for our team. The first back-to-back is always tough, and we were playing against a desperate team but we battled hard and gave ourselves a chance. Unfortunately we couldn’t grab that overtime goal. I felt better as the game went along. I felt more settled in there and that’s to be expected; that’s what you’re hoping for in the first game of the year.”

“That’s the kind of stuff you need from your goaltenders,” Yeo said of Kuemper, “especially with these back-to-back games, coming into a tough building on the road. We knew that they were going to throw everything they could at the net from every angle and crash the net hard. I thought he was great all night long.”

The Kings cap off their home stand on Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche.


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