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Hackett and Wild top Kings 4-2

by Curtis Zupke /
LOS ANGELES -- Matt Hackett is having a magical start to his NHL career, and he's taking the Minnesota Wild with him.

Two days after he beat the San Jose Sharks in his NHL debut, the 21-year-old goaltender won his first NHL start in a 4-2 victory Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings that gave Minnesota a franchise-record sixth straight road win and its sixth consecutive win overall.

"I can't even explain it," Hackett said of the past 72 hours. "It's been crazy. The best 72 hours of my life so far. We've got to keep it going."

Minnesota holds the top spot in the overall NHL standings with 41 points -- including the first three-game California sweep in franchise history -- despite ranking in the bottom five in the League in scoring, shots on goal and shots against.

But, boy, what a story the Wild and Hackett have become.

After stopping all 34 shots he faced when he was inserted 1:11 into Tuesday's 2-1 win at San Jose due to an injury to Josh Harding, Hackett stopped 42 of a season-high 44 shots by L.A. He finally allowed his first NHL goal 3:59 into the third period when Dustin Penner put in the rebound of Jack Johnson's shot to pull L.A. to 3-1.

After Cody Almond's goal at 11:42 restored the Wild's three-goal lead, Trent Hunter added a late goal for the Kings, who were held to no more than two goals for the seventh game in a row despite firing 18 shots at Hackett in the final 20 minutes.

"It was awesome," Hackett said. "I loved the pressure at the end there. The boys stepped up and we finished it off."

Somewhere Jeff Hackett was smiling. It was probably past his bedtime in London, Ont., but the uncle of Matt Hackett and former longtime veteran goalie said in a phone interview earlier Thursday that his nephew has poise.

"He's got quick feet," Jeff Hackett said. "They say that's his strength. As he's developing here as a pro, he's reading the play better. I think he just loves being a goalie. He loves the competitiveness of the position."

A key to the Wild's success this season is their ability to win close games. They had won each of their past nine one-goal games entering Thursday and were 11-2-3 in that category. But this one wasn't nearly as difficult.

Minnesota took a 3-0 lead into third period, which might as well have been 13-0 given that it has allowed the fewest third-period goals in the NHL while L.A. ranked 28th in third-period scoring.

"It was nice to have a good start," first-year coach Mike Yeo said. "It was nice not to have to sit here and talk about another attempt or a great job coming from behind and I thought we were sharp right from the get-go.

"This is a group, we talk about winners aren't satisfied. We can come in and say, 'This is great. We've won five in a row.' Not with this group, though. We got a bunch of winners in there that just want to go out and they're hungry for more."

The Kings are hungry for offense -- they continue to struggle to put the puck in the net.

"Look at our shot pool," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "In 40-whatever shots we got two goals. We have to find ways to score goals. I give Hackett credit. He made some pretty big saves."

The Wild got a goal from Almond and a plus-2 night by newly recalled Jeff Taffe.

"A lot of guys coming up in (AHL affiliate) Houston and really stepping in and doing a great job for us," forward Dany Heatley said. "It's a fun team to play on."

The Wild were outshot 13-7 in the second period but got two goals on those seven shots and killed a five-minute major boarding penalty by Kyle Brodziak.

Darroll Powe banged home the puck amid a flailing Drew Doughty and Rob Scuderi during a goalmouth scramble at 1:25 to end a sequence that started with Dustin Brown's turnover near the wall. Defenseman Marco Scandella finished off a rush when he grabbed Dany Heatley's pass and wristed in a shot from the high slot at 16:02.

"We're a team that, whenever they score, we score," Heatley said. "We don't change. We don't let things affect us. (But) it was nice to get the lead."

In between, Brodziak was given a major for a hit on Kopitar at 4:48 of the second period. Kopitar stayed motionless on the ice and went to the bench but only missed a shift.

Kings coach Terry Murray was outspoken about the play.

"I don't get the attitude, the mentality of players today, the lack of respect," Murray said.

"The jeopardy they're putting their fellow PA member in with that kind of attitude. It makes no sense. And that never happened before. In my generation, that never happened. You rode a guy in hard, but you got him into a situation where you're both standing up and the boards will absorb your hit. Today's it's almost intent to hurt somebody."

Minnesota got a rare early goal when Jared Spurgeon's slap shot hit the end boards, and Mikko Koivu collected the puck behind the net before slipping a wraparound under Jonathan Quick's pads just 24 seconds after the opening faceoff. It was the fastest goal on the road in Wild history.

"It's a killer," Murray said. "That first shift is such an easy play. It's just a simple d-to-d, behind the net play and you're out of your zone. There's really no pressure. We made the mistake. We put the puck at our teammates' feet.

"Those plays are the ones that are haunting us right now -- our own mistakes."

Kings defenseman Alec Martinez returned to the lineup after he missed 10 games with an upper-body injury.

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