ST. PAUL – The Kings did not look like a team playing the second half of a back-to-back road set Wednesday night in Minnesota, firing away for four first period goals en route to a 4-0 win over the Wild at XCEL Energy Center.
After extending to a six-round shootout Tuesday night in Nashville, the Kings looked as fresh and as energized as they have all season in a first period in an opposing building. The roster finally got the ‘fast start’ they’ve been looking for, picking up just their second road win of the season.
“This was important,” Justin Williams said of the Kings’ win. “Not just for, obviously, the two points in the standings, but certainly for our psyche. We don’t want to think that we can’t win on the road – which we never will, but at the same time it was big getting the lead, getting another one, and evidently shut the rest of the game down.”
Martin Jones made his second straight start, his second in 24 hours; a possible message from head coach Darryl Sutter to his players – who looked to have an extra jolt in their strides tonight.
Or, it was simply to give Jonathan Quick a much-deserved six straight days of rest.
Mike Richards got the Kings on the board just over four minutes into play, deflecting a Dwight King wrist shot past Minnesota’s Darcy Kuemper to give the Kings a 1-0 lead.
King, who entered Minnesota’s zone with the puck, settled down the play, saw no passing options, and fired a shot toward the net. Richards, who was looking to get into King’s shooting lane, did just that, and got enough of his stick on King’s shot to mystify Kuemper.
Richards’ goal was his fourth of the season and second in three games; he has three points (2G, 1A) in the last four games.
Dustin Brown gave the Kings a two-goal lead with a little under six minutes to play in the opening frame. After the Kings chipped the puck out of their zone, Brown recovered the loose puck in the neutral zone, and skated in on a two-on-one sequence with Justin Williams.
Brown looked at his options with Williams, but opted to shoot instead, just barely squeaking a wrist shot through the legs of Darcy Kuemper’s to give the Kings a 2-0 lead. Brown’s goal was the 200th of his NHL career, all of which have been scored in a Kings uniform.
The Kings added two more goals in the final two minutes of the first, ultimately putting away the game, and forcing Minnesota to swap goaltenders.
Tyler Toffoli blocked a shot from Minnesota’s Nate Prosser with under two minutes to play in the first, then quickly transitioned and took the puck the distance. Toffoli, after the blocked shot, was off to the races with Marian Gaborik on a two-on-one. Toffoli used his hands, not his partner, to bury the Kings third goal of the evening.
Toffoli never kept the puck still while approaching in on Kuemper, leaving Minnesota’s goaltender off-balance. Delaying his shot, Toffoli caught Kuemper off guard, and slipped the puck past the Wild goaltender with a back-hand maneuver to give the Kings a 3-0 lead.
With his goal, Toffoli snapped a four-game scoreless streak. He is now again tied with Tanner Pearson (9) for the team lead in goals scored.
Justin Williams buried the dagger with :08.6 seconds left to play in the first, beating Kuemper with a wrist-shot in the heart of Minnesota’s slot.
Jarret Stoll and Dustin Brown started the play in the neutral zone. As Brown entered Minnesota’s zone with the puck, Jarret Stoll drove straight to the net, freeing up space and a passing lane for Justin Williams. Brown found that open lane, hit Williams with a perfect pass, and the Kings took a commanding 4-0 lead into the first intermission.
Williams, with his goal, is now riding a six-game point streak (3G, 4A), and has eight points (4G, 4A) in his last eight games.
Martin Jones, making his fifth start of the season, notched his fifth-career shutout in the win, stopping all 28 shots he faced.
“Tonight was a really complete game,” Jones said of the shutout win. “I thought we did a really good job in the second and third periods closing them down from both sides of the puck. It was a good 60-minute effort from us, and we’re happy to get the win here.”
Dustin Brown led all Kings players in points scored (1G, 1A = 2), Trevor Lewis and Dustin Brown in shots taken (4), Matt Greene, Kyle Clifford, Jarret Stoll, and Robyn Regehr in hits delivered (3), Matt Greene in shots blocked (2), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (25:36). Martin Jones made 28 saves in the win, recording his fifth-career NHL shutout.
With the win, the Kings’ record jumps to 12-6-5, their record away from STAPLES Center improves to 2-4-4. The Kings will return to Los Angeles to begin a quick two-game home stand Saturday night as the Chicago Blackhawks pay a visit to STAPLES Center. The puck is slated to drop at 7:30PM PT.
*REPORTING FROM EL SEGUNDO, CA