Kings blow late lead in uncharacteristic loss
LOS ANGELES — The Kings have had a remarkable run when leading after two periods dating back all the way to 2009. But Monday night, another tally was added to the loss column as the Wild scored two in the third period to defeat the Kings 3-2 and prevent them from getting any closer to that coveted playoff spot.
After Anze Kopitar set up Justin Williams late in the second period, the Kings held a 2-1 lead. This season, a second-period lead has nearly assured a win as the Kings came into the game 25-1-0 when leading after two. But it was the second time in three weeks the Kings have failed to protect a 40-minute lead and the loss snapped Los Angeles’ six-game win streak.
"Keeping the lead in the third period is usually our team’s forte," said defenseman Drew Doughty. "But we didn’t play very well in the second and we had a little collapse in the third period where they got two really quick and we couldn’t get it back."
Just under four minutes into the third period, Matt Moulson came off the corner boards and slipped a puck past Jonathan Quick to tie the game at two. But the defense was pressing hard, possibly too hard, and Mikko Koivu slipped away from his defender exactly 61 seconds later and launched a slap shot behind Quick.
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The Kings came back on the other end firing and had a few good opportunities but the Wild defense behind goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov swarmed the net, blocking key shots down the stretch. Kopitar and Williams had looks in the final minute but Bryzgalov kicked Kopitar’s shot from out wide away and Williams was unable to get a shot through traffic.
"Really, we got what we wanted: We got a couple good looks to score a goal," said forward Williams. "But they blocked us at the right times and like I said, they did what they had to do to win the game."
Feeling the heat in the playoff race by a team who is still holding on to the final Western Conference Wildcard spot, the Kings pressed. They turned several pucks over in the neutral zone and lost key puck battles.
Defenseman Alex Martinez took a 1-0 lead in the first for Los Angeles, earning his fifth point in the last six games, but Zach Parise evened it up three minutes later. Significantly thinned by injuries and with an emergency goalie dressed to back up Bryzgalov, Minnesota (39-26-11, 89 points) felt no such heat and emphatically showed that they are still in this race.
"They are a very good defensive hockey team and we knew that if we let them back in the game it would be tough to win it," Doughty said. "We just didn’t do a good enough job."
The Kings (44-26-6, 94 points) are still third in the Pacific and the magic number to clinch a playoff berth remains at five. But there are still aspects of the game the team is looking to change in the final days of the regular season.
"It simply wasn’t good enough," Williams said. "We’ve had a tendency to give up leads in the third period and that’s very uncharacteristic of us. So we need to rectify that in these last five or six games because we’re a team that shuts it down once we get the lead."