LOS ANGELES – The addition of Jason Pominville is a much sexier move than that of blue-collar defenseman like Robyn Regehr, at least on paper.
But plain old solid defense, backed up by a great start, equated to a more successful debut for Regehr and the Los Angeles Kings in a 3-0 victory against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. Regehr recorded an assist and was a plus-2 with six hits and two blocked shots in his Kings debut and Justin Williams scored two goals to trump anything Pominville did in his Wild debut.
Los Angeles scored on its first two shots to chase Niklas Backstrom and Jonathan Bernier made 22 saves as the Kings leapfrogged the Wild for fourth in the Western Conference race.
"It was really nice to get that win," said Regehr, who was acquired Monday from the Buffalo Sabres and took a crash course on the ever-changing West.
"The Western Conference standings are continuing to be tight. They've been this way all season long, so the more games that we can win right now, the less we have to worry down the road toward the end of the season."
Pominville, acquired from Buffalo on Wednesday, played on a line with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu. The trio generated time in L.A.'s zone but Minnesota couldn't get any pucks past Bernier, who is 9-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average in 10 starts. Minnesota has dropped four of five after it won seven straight, and has lost three in a row for the first time since Feb. 1-7.
The score was deceptive because Los Angeles only put nine shots on goal through 40 minutes yet took a three-goal lead into the third period. The Kings took advantage of poor line changes by Minnesota for two of their goals.
Pominville, like former Sabres teammate Regehr, comes from the Eastern Conference but knows how difficult it is to come back against a hard-closing team like the Kings.
"Unfortunately tonight we didn't get the start we wanted," Pominville said. "We put ourselves kind of behind the eight-ball, and it's tough to battle back against a team that has won before, that knows what it takes to win and that shut the game down pretty well.
"But I think there's a lot positives to get out of the game. We shut them down to 14 shots. Besides our start, I think after that we played pretty well."
Williams beat Backstrom's replacement, Darcy Kuemper, at 3:52 of the second period with a slap shot that banked in off the crossbar from the right side as the Wild got caught on a line change. Regehr started the play when he broke up a pass to start the rush.
Williams only needed 89 seconds after the opening faceoff to extend his goal-scoring streak to a career-high five games. He broke down the right side and wristed the puck far side on Backstrom for his eighth goal this season.
Williams has more goals (six) in five games that he did in his previous 32. The streak started with an empty-net goal on March 28.
"Sometimes that's all you need to springboard yourself – you need to see a puck go in the net," Williams said. "Now I see pucks go in the net [and] I'm a little bit more confident and because of it, I'm seeing the back of the net a little bit more."
The dynamic between Williams and Regehr was ironic because Regehr separated Williams' shoulder two seasons ago. Williams has a renewed appreciation for Regehr.
"I think he's exactly what we expected," Williams said. "He's a hard-nosed player who's tough to play against and we're all happy as forwards that he's with us now."
Jeff Carter exposed Minnesota's right side again 1:38 later when he took a great feed from Mike Richards and slipped it through in close for his team-leading 21st goal -- and ended Backstrom's night almost before it began.
"I thought they came out and played well," Wild defenseman Ryan Suter said. "They got a couple of early breaks. After that I thought we played well. I thought we played a pretty even game. We just couldn't get anything going and couldn't get any momentum going. But I thought they got a couple of breaks early and it ended up costing us the game."
Kings coach Darryl Sutter changed up all his lines except for the top unit. He said in the morning that he wouldn't change his defenseman pairs but he had Regehr start with Keaton Ellerby and also see time with Slava Voynov.
Minnesota was missing Dany Heatley, who is expected to remain out with a reported wrist injury.