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Wild play spoiler again, edge Kings in shootout

by Dan Myers
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- While the Minnesota Wild would like to be in the playoff mix right now, they are certainly relishing their role as spoiler.

Just 48 hours after stealing a point from Florida, the Wild did the same to the Los Angeles Kings, winning 4-3 in a shootout at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night.

The Wild got goals from Erik Christensen and Mikko Koivu in the shootout and a pair of saves from Niklas Backstrom.

Minnesota also had a golden chance to win in overtime after Devin Setoguchi was hauled down on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot. His snap shot rang the left post.

"It's a big point, but I think we left another one out on the table," said Kings captain Dustin Brown. "It's not too often we blow leads. But it is what it is."

"I don't know that we're that focused on the other teams, certainly that's something we say a little bit, but our focus is on ourselves and wrapping this up the right way," said Wild coach Mike Yeo.

The overtime loss was a disappointing way to end a solid four-game roadie for the Kings, who finished the trip 2-1-1, netting points in each of the last three games -- including three points in the last 24 hours.

"Five out of six (points) in less than four days. I think if you would have said that any other time other than right now, you'd say it was great," said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. "That's what I told them: We got three out of four in a day."

For Christensen, it was the second straight game where he tied the score in the latter half of the third period. Against the Panthers, his goal came with just 30 seconds left. Saturday against the Kings, the puck deflected off his skate and past Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier with just over nine minutes remaining in regulation.

It was his seventh goal of the season, and sixth as a member of the Wild since joining Minnesota in a trade from the New York Rangers Feb. 2. Four of those six goals have come in the third period.

Asked why the puck has been finding his stick so much in the clutch lately, Christensen chucked.

"This one found my leg," Christensen said. "We just kind of played a solid game and scored a timely goal. As a line and as a whole team, we were just solid."

Christensen's linemates -- Nick Johnson and Jason Zucker -- also played stellar games after Yeo said following his team's morning skate Saturday that he needed more from that line. Johnson scored a goal and Zucker had two assists. Christensen also had an assist. All three finished the game a plus-3.

"Your line is not going to be very good unless you have everybody going. Tonight, they were ready, right from the start," Yeo said. "They got rewarded with two goals, but there was a couple other shifts where they got some momentum for us, some great offensive zone time."

Other than an exciting overtime, which saw Setoguchi's penalty shot and an extended Kings power play, much of the game's offense came in the opening 20 minutes. A see-saw affair, the Wild jumped ahead first on a deflected shot from the point by Darroll Powe in front, giving Minnesota the lead just 40 seconds in.

Brad Richardson's goal less than three minutes later tied the score as he banged home a rebound of an Anze Kopitar shot from the slot at 3:28.

It took Minnesota just 17 seconds to respond as Zucker gained control of the puck in the neutral zone and charged down the left wall to the front of the net. Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier made the stop, but the puck sat in the crease for Nick Johnson, who tapped in his eighth of the season, giving Minnesota the lead.

The goal was just the second in the last 30 games for Johnson.

A Stephane Veilleux slashing penalty gave the Kings their first power play of the night later in the period, and Los Angeles took advantage.

After Backstrom was unable to corral the first shot once again, Brown pounced on the rebound for his 21st of the season, tying the game at two after 20 minutes.

"We had to tighten some things up in the neutral zone and allow us to use our strengths," Sutter said.

Early in the second, a shot by Kopitar at the left circle was deflected in front where Richardson gained control behind the net, circled and fired the puck into an empty net for his fifth of the season and second of the night.

Kopitar finished the night with three assists.

It was the third two-goal game for Richardson in his career and first since Oct. of 2010.

Los Angeles led 3-2 at the end of two and held the lead until the midway point of the third, when a Zucker shot from the slot deflected off a King, then off the skate of Christensen and into the net.

The goal marked the second assist of the night for Zucker -- the University of Denver rookie playing in just his second career National Hockey League game. Zucker also had a brilliant pass in overtime which sprung Setoguchi on the breakaway which resulted in the penalty shot.

"I got the jitters out last game and was able to come in tonight and play more of my game," Zucker said. "Johnson and Christensen have been heling me a lot with that and I have been able to get some chemistry going with them."

On the blue line, Tom Gilbert was a horse for the Wild. Playing a defenseman short for much of the game after Steven Kampfer left the game in the second period, Gilbert racked up 31:43 of ice time, the second-most in his career. Since being acquired from Edmonton on trade-deadline day, three of Gilbert's top-five minutes-played games in his career have come in a Wild sweater.

"In this locker room, there's no quit," Gilbert said. "That's the great part of this team -- we're playing until the last whistle blows and the buzzer sounds. A great effort at the end there."

Backstrom stopped 20 saves to earn his 19th win of the season. Bernier made 26 saves.

The overtime loss, combined with Phoenix's victory against Anaheim, creates a tie atop the Pacific Division standings with just three games remaining.

Both teams will get on an airplane tonight, as the Kings will head home for a crucial two-game homestand against Edmonton and San Jose on Monday and Thursday, respectively, before wrapping up the regular season a week next Saturday at San Jose.

Minnesota will look to continue its spoiler ways Sunday at Chicago and Tuesday at Nashville before finishing the season at home Thursday and Saturday against the Blackhawks and Phoenix, respectively.

Yeo said Kampfer's injury will not allow him to travel with the team, meaning a roster move could be coming.
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