Mikko Koivu's early tally propels Wild to wire-to-wire win over Kings
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Mikko Koivu scored 24 seconds into the game and the Minnesota Wild never lost the lead, shaking their comeback habit with a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night in Los Angeles.
The Wild, who have 12 comeback victories this year, led 3-0 after two periods on goals from Koivu, Darroll Powe and Marco Scandella.
Matt Hackett made his first NHL start -- his second NHL appearance -- and stopped 42 of 44 shots.
The Wild were outshot 44-24.
Another new face on the roster was Jeff Taffe, whom the Wild called up from the Houston Aeros earlier on Thursday. Although no stranger to the NHL -- he has played in 175 games -- Taffe made his first appearance in a Wild jersey and assisted on Koivu's goal on the first shift of the game.
Kyle Brodziak was ejected from the game 4:48 into the second period after delivering a hard hit on Anze Kopitar. He was given a 5-minute major penalty for boarding and a 10-minute penalty for game misconduct.
The Wild remain atop the NHL standings with 41 points, six points clear of the Vancouver Canucks.
The Wild scored the first goal on the first shift of the game when Koivu wrapped the puck around the net's left goalpost and snuck it underneath Kings' goaltender Jonathan Quick's pads.
The Wild started the second period strong, too.
Nick Johnson fought on the wall to keep the puck in the defensive zone before tossing it at the net. Johnson, Brodziak and Powe all swarmed the net and wacked away at the puck until Powe eventually powered it past Quick just 1:25 into the second period.
Minutes later, Brodziak delivered a shoulder-to-shoulder hit on Anze Kopitar in the Kings' defensive corner.
The Wild killed the penalty, and at 16:02, Heatley fed a pass from the left board to Scandella in the slot, who fired a quick wrist shot to beat Quick blocker-side to increase the Wild's lead to three.
The Kings rallied in the third period with goals from Dustin Penner and Trent Hunter, but one more for the Wild from Cody Almond and Hackett's halting presence in net staved off a Kings' comeback.
After killing off Brodziak's major penalty to maintain their two-goal lead -- known as the easiest lead to lose in hockey -- the Wild scored to increase their lead to three with just under 4 minutes remaining in the second period.
• 24: Seconds played before Koivu scored, marking the Wild's fastest goal on the road ever.
• 11: Minnesota natives who have skated for the Wild after Taffe's performance on Thursday. Taffe is the seventh Gopher to skate for the Wild.
• 6: Consecutive road victories for the Wild after Thursday, a franchise record. Entering the game, the Wild ranked fifth in the lead in road wins with a record of 8-3-2.
• Josh Harding remains injured after suffering whiplash from an accidental elbow by Nick Schultz against the Ducks (Dec. 6).
• Cal Clutterbuck is recovering from a thigh injury.
• Devin Setoguchi (lower body), Niklas Backstrom (groin), Guillaume Latendresse (concussion), Marek Zidlicky (concussion) and Justin Falk (upper body) are on the injured reserve list.
Wild - Mikko Koivu (Spurgeon, Taffe), :24
Wild - Darroll Powe (Johnson, Brodziak), 1:25
Wild - Marco Scandella (Heatley, Cullen), 16:02
Kings - Dustin Penner (Johnson), 3:59
Wild - Cody Almond (Johnson, Powe), 11:42
Kings - Trent Hunter (Clifford, Johnson), 16:32
Shots: Wild 12-7-5-24; Kings 13-13-18-42. Saves: Wild, Josh Hackett (42-44); Kings, Jonathan Quick (20-24). Power plays: Wild 0-for-4, Kings 0-for-2.
1. Matt Hackett
2. Jared Spurgeon
3. Darroll Powe
The Wild will play two more on the road against Phoenix on Saturday and Winnipeg on Tuesday before returning home to kick off a two game homestead against the Blackhawks at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center.