Following Wild games, Content Coordinator Evan Sporer will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at the 2-1 overtime loss against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.
A very impressive start to the season for Darcy Kuemper. While the Wild found its footing, Kuemper made 16 saves in the first period, 15 in the second, and a number of very high-quality stops.
"That's the kind of stuff you need from your goaltender, especially in these back-to-back games, coming into a tough building on the road," Head Coach Mike Yeo said.
Around the 10-minute mark of the first, Kuemper stopped Dustin Brown, who got two whacks at a loose puck from point blank. On his stomach, Kuemper extended his right pad along the post to stop each shot before freezing the puck.
Off the ensuing faceoff, Kuemper made nearly an identical save on Anze Kopitar, as he jammed away at a puck on the doorstep.
"Sometimes it's nice to have your first game be like that; get a feel for it early," Kuemper said. "Obviously you haven't had those game reps. You've had preseason, but to get some extra work in is nice."
One of the most impressive elements of Kuemper's performance was how well he handled the traffic and bodies the Kings threw toward the crease. It's not something easily simulated in practice, and in his first start, Kuemper showed no signs of rust. He gave the Wild a chance to win.
"We knew that they were going to throw everything they could at the net from every angle, and crash the net hard, and I thought [Kuemper] was great all night long," Yeo said.
Kuemper made 35 saves in all, in what amounted to a really stellar start.
This had the setup of being a very difficult game for Minnesota. Playing the second half of a back-to-back after facing a young Coyotes team that gets up and down the ice, the Wild wasn't making any excuses, but not an easy stage by any means.
Add in a Los Angeles Kings team playing with some desperation—something Yeo said he expected after morning skate—and it was a stiff test for the Wild. The Kings had gone winless in their first three games, but like Yeo had said before the game, this was a Kings team that was a victim of some early bad luck.
"We knew what we were going to face tonight," Yeo said. "A winless team, and it's not like they're a team you would expect to be winless at this point. We knew we were coming into a hornet's nest, and we definitely weren't on top of them, but I'm very proud and very pleased with the way we responded in the third period."
About that third period. All that being said, given the circumstances of the game, it would have been very easy for the Wild to lay down in the third period, but it did anything but that. The third period was Minnesota's best in just about every element of its game.
The breakouts were cleaner, the Wild spent a lot more time in the Kings' end, and tied the game when Mikko Koivu scored on the power play.
"We came strong, and we were on goal behind, so obviously we did recognize that," Koivu said.
The Wild outshot Los Angeles 10-4 in the third, and out-attempted the Kings 13-9 at even-strength.
"That's the thing that pleases me the most," Yeo said. "We saw it as coaches, we saw it for sure: The guys were feeling it, and that's the mental toughness that I appreciate right there.
"We didn't accept being tired in that situation. We dug in, we got to our game in the third period, and earned a huge point."
Back to that power play. There were some earlier opportunities in the game where it was unsuccessful, but the goal it scored echoed the theme of how the power play has been successful all season.
The Wild has the positioning and passing sequences down in the zone. They know where each other are. Zach Parise, who had the primary assist, took a shot from an angle with Koivu in a good position to pounce on a rebound. The Wild attempted to cycle the puck to Parise a few times, failed, but didn't give up.
Just knowing where players are situated makes things much easier. They're using their outs to relieve penalty-killing pressure to reload plays.
"We've been trying to keep it simple, and we've been winning the loose pucks, the rebounds, and the pucks around the net," Koivu said.
The Wild's power play is now 4-for-14 on the season, with all four goals coming from the unit of Koivu, Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikael Granlund, and Jason Pominville. Minnesota has scored a power play goal in each of its first four games. Last season, the Wild's longest streak of power play goals scored in consecutive games was three.
Kings defensemen Derek Forbort, a Duluth native, made his NHL debut on Friday, becoming the final player selected in the first round of the 2010 NHL Draft to appear in an NHL game.
Forbort played for Duluth East High School, leading them to the quarterfinals in the state tournament in 2009.
The Greyhounds may have made it further that year had it not been for an incredibly skilled field that featured the likes of Nick Bjugstad, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Nick Leddy, and Nate Schmidt, among others.