After 10 games in a row on the road, the Los Angeles Kings looked right at home back in the Staples Center.
The Kings avoided the dreaded "first home game after a long road trip" jinx with a solid 4-2 victory against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night in their first game back after a 10-game trip. Drew Doughty's goal 4:35 into the third period broke a 2-2 tie and helped the Kings improve to 10-1-3 in their last 14 games by winning their first home game since Jan. 26.
"It was really important. Always, after a road trip like that, to come back and get comfortable in this building and on this ice sheet," said center Anze Kopitar, whose 17-foot empty-netter iced the win. "It was good for our confidence, for sure."
Wayne Simmonds scored L.A.'s first two goals to help the Kings move into fifth place in the Western Conference by winning for the second time in two days -- they completed the road trip with a 3-2 win at Anaheim on Wednesday.
"Back-to-back games are always tough, but me, personally, I always find the second one of the two a lot easier to play in, just because you have nothing to save it for," Doughty said. "You can just kind of blow it out, and you don't have much to worry about. We played a great back-to-back game tonight. We were a little shaky at times, but we got two points and I guess that's all that matters."
Minnesota fell to sixth in the West -- the Wild are first among six teams tied with 70 points -- but coach Todd Richards couldn't find much to criticize his team for.
"Guys played hard all the way to the end," Richards said of the Wild, which was without captain Mikko Koivu (broken finger) and center Kyle Brodziak (illness). "It was a pretty intense, pretty physical game. I'm proud of the way the guys battled. We stuck with it all the way. We just came up a little short."
Doughty put the Kings ahead to stay by firing a pass from Dustin Brown past Niklas Backstrom from the slot for his ninth goal of the season. Los Angeles then killed two late penalties, including a Minnesota power play for the final 1:59 of regulation. Kopitar clinched it when he grabbed a loose puck deep in his own zone and fired it the length of the ice into the empty net.
Simmonds opened the scoring at 13:25 of the opening period, connecting from the slot during a power play for his first goal in 17 games since Jan. 10.
"I just haven't been getting a lot of bounces," he said. "I've been going to the net hard and tonight I just was getting bounces, trying to get my shots off quick, and as a result of that, I got two goals."
Nystrom evened it with a brilliant individual effort 4:03 into the second period -- he was actually one of only three Wild players on the ice during a line change. Nystrom barged through two Kings coming out of the corner, drove to the net and poked the puck underneath Jonathan Bernier while most of his teammates were changing. It was his second goal in four games after he scored just one in the Wild's first 57 games.
Simmonds hustled after a loose puck in the corner, skated out and fired a shot over Backstrom's blocker at 10:18 for his first multigoal game since Oct. 21. Burns evened it with 4.5 seconds left in the period, putting a shot from the top of left circle through traffic and past Bernier right off the faceoff at the start of a power play.
"He was playing really well," Kopitar said of Simmonds, his linemate along with Marco Sturm. "He was making plays. he was responsible all over the ice, and he got rewarded with two goals."
The Wild get right back on the ice Friday night in Anaheim.
"We weren't perfect by any means," Richards said, "but we tried and we gave ourselves a chance.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report
|PPG - Wayne Simmonds (10) ASST: Jack Johnson (35), Dustin Brown (22)|
1 - 0 LAK
|Eric Nystrom (3) ASST: Martin Havlat (33), Brent Burns (22)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Wayne Simmonds (11) ASST: Anze Kopitar (39), Marco Sturm (5)|
2 - 1 LAK
|PPG - Brent Burns (15) ASST: Matt Cullen (24)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Drew Doughty (9) ASST: Dustin Brown (23), Ryan Smyth (18)|
3 - 2 LAK
|SHG - EN - Anze Kopitar (19) ASST: Michal Handzus (16)|
4 - 2 LAK
|Dustin Brown Slashing against Greg Zanon|
|Brent Burns Hooking against Ryan Smyth|
|Marek Zidlicky Hooking against Dustin Brown|
|Justin Williams Tripping against Eric Nystrom|
|Clayton Stoner Hooking against Dustin Brown|
|Drew Doughty Interference against Jared Spurgeon|
|Brent Burns Holding against Brad Richardson|
|Matt Greene Hi-sticking against John Madden|
|Ryan Smyth Tripping against John Madden|