Minnesota-Los Angeles: Wild De-Throne Kings 3-2

Nick MaxsonCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 28:  Guillaume Latendresse #48 of the Minnesota Wild plays the puck into the offensive zone past Sean O'Donnell #6 of the Los Angeles Kings during the NHL game at the Staples Center on December 28, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The Wild defeated the Kings 4-3.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

It was the special teams that were the stars of the show for Minnesota as their power-play and penalty kill came up strong to defeat the falling Kings 3-2 Monday night in St. Paul.

A very high tempo to start off the game with lots of end-to-end skating with very little whistles.

Minnesota came out with one goal in mind: play physical. Derek Boogaard and the big bodies were active early in the game trying to send a message.

Along with that high-tempo and physical start comes a lot of sloppy play. Lots of transition hockey with no real room opening up in the neutral zone and no real good offensive chances for either team.

Later in the first the Kings started controlling the puck in Minnesota's defensive zone. A pressing forecheck and great puck movement kept the Wild on their heels for a few shifts before Minnesota got some chances of their own. A big reason for the offensive success is the return of captain Mikko Koivu from a hand injury that kept him out for the last two games.

It was up-and-down hockey for the first period and the game remained scoreless.

The second period started off just like the first period but an early penalty by Los Angeles's Ryan Smyth sent Minnesota on the power play. The Wild took advantage as Owen Nolan buried a rebound off Jonathan Quick and Minnesota took a 1-0 lead early in the second.

The Wild power play was near absent in the first part of the season but now it's the ninth best in the NHL with a 19 percent success rate.

The Kings came out storming after the goal by Nolan as desperation mode seemed to kick in for Los Angeles and for good reason. The Kings have been falling lately and what seemed to be a locked in team for the playoffs now are a team fighting to stay in. They came into the game just 2-7-1 in their last 10 and have dropped from fifth to seventh in the Western Conference standings.

After a couple of offsetting penalties, Brent Burns made a beautiful move in a four-on-four situation and drove to the net and beat Quick upstairs to increase the lead for Minnesota to 2-0.

However, with another penalty to Nolan, Los Angeles had a five-on-three for about one minute but the Wild and their penalty kill got the job done, keeping the Kings off the scoresheet. Minnesota had most of the momentum in the second period until a shot from Scott Parse at the blueline was deflected in past goaltender Niklas Backstrom and the Kings cut the lead in half to 2-1.

It was a chippy end to the second period but it was a good ending for Minnesota, earning two goals and most importantly a 2-1 lead heading into the third.

It didn't last 90 seconds as Scott Parse for the second time tonight blasted a one-timer past Backstrom to tie the game 2-2.

It could have gotten worse, as the Wild was tagged twice on the same shift to give the Kings another five-on-three advantage this time for a full two minutes. Los Angeles peppered Backstrom with shot after shot, and the player of the game, Greg Zannon, who is already in the top five in shot blocks in the league, made a few key blocks on the power play to keep the Kings scoreless on the man advantage.

Minnesota got a power play of their own and for the second time of the game the Wild took advantage, this time from a Martin Havlat slapshot from the left point that beat Quick upstairs to put Minnesota ahead 3-2.

Los Angeles woouldn't go away quietly as they continue to pressure the Wild and claw back into the game. The Kings had yet another opportunity on the power play late in the game but the penalty killers stood tall for Minnesota, conserving the one-goal lead with three minutes left to play.

Los Angeles pulled their goalie with a minute to play and nearly tied it with a one-timer from Drew Doughty that changed direction but was fought off by Backstrom. With that save Minnesota defeated the Kings 3-2 in a hard fought game for both teams.

Greg Zannon, Brent Burns, and Martin Havlat are the three stars of the game from my perspective for a multitude of reasons but mostly because of good, solid gameplay and getting the job done when it was needed most.

Minnesota will host Chicago on Wednesday night and Los Angeles will travel to Nashville tomorrow to take on the Predators in the second half of a back-to-back series.


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