Stunted by a rather lethargic opening period, the Kings dropped the first game of their current road trip, losing 4-1 to the Minnesota Wild Saturday evening at the XCEL Energy Center.
While the Kings were coming off of a day of rest, Minnesota was still churning from their 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames less than 24 hours earlier. Unfortunately, Minnesota was the loose, energized team during the first period.
The Wild built a two-goal lead in the opening 20 minutes. Nino Niederreiter scored three minutes into the contest, and Mikko Koivu tacked onto Minnesota’s lead with six minutes to play in the first.
Following the first, Darryl Sutter pulled Jonathan Quick from the game in favor of Martin Jones – who hadn’t appeared in a game since March 1. Quick, who stopped seven of the nine shots he faced, was pulled to allow Sutter to send a message to the Kings’ roster, rather than fault the rough start on the Kings’ goaltending.
The Kings, showing some improvement to their play during the opening minutes of the second, finally got on the board when Dwight King buried his 11th goal of the season, and his first in 20 games.
Tyler Toffoli started the play by nixing a Minnesota clearing attempt. Upon recovering the puck, Toffoli fed an open Jeff Carter, who looked and hit Dwight King with a pass across the slot, which he fired past Devan Dubnyk.
The Kings still found themselves within a goal until Tyler Toffoli was called for a tripping infraction with just over four minutes to play in regulation. On the ensuing power play, their second of the evening, the Wild reclaimed a two goal lead with Nino Niederreiter’s second marker of the night.
Mikko Koivu tacked on an empty-netter with 1:22 to play, also his second goal of the night.
With the loss, the Kings still remain in a playoff spot. Sitting on 88 points in the standings, the Kings lead the Calgary Flames by only a single point for the Pacific Division’s third and final playoff spot.
Dwight King (1G), Tyler Toffoli (1A), and Jeff Carter (1A) led all Kings players in points scored (1), Marian Gaborik and Jeff Carter in shots taken (5), Matt Greene and Alec Martinez in shots blocked (2), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (25:38). Jonathan Quick stopped seven of the nine shots he faced, and Martin Jones nine of the 10 he faced in the loss.
With the loss, the Kings’ record drops to 37-24-14; their mark on the road away from STAPLES Center dips to 15-15-7. The Kings are now 3-1-0 on their current five-game road trip, which they’ll finish Monday evening in Illinois. The Kings will face the Chicago Blackhawks Monday night at the United Center; the puck is slated to drop just after 5:30PM PT.