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Updated: October 25th, 2010 10:40pm
Penalty box parade: Wild fall to Kings, 3-2 in a shootout

Penalty box parade: Wild fall to Kings, 3-2 in a shootout

by Jess Myers
1500ESPN.com
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- All day on Monday, the Los Angeles Kings obsessed about the Minnesota Wild power play. In the morning skate, Kings coach Terry Murray gushed about the Wild prowess with the man advantage. Before the game, Kings officials said that the loss of star Drew Doughty was a temporary inconvenience, but slowing down the Wild power play was the true challenge.

And with the Wild leading the league on the power play, scoring at a nearly 40 percent clip overall and cashing in on more than half of the time at home when there was an opponent in the penalty box, heading into the Kings showdown, who could argue? Playing in a rink named for a power company, the Wild power play had quickly emerged as the not-so-secret weapon in their fight to stay relevant in the Northwest Division.

And then, just like that, it was gone.

For the second consecutive game, the Wild went 0-for-4 on the power play, and lost, this time 3-2 in a shootout.

For the Wild coaches and players, the growing concern is not the effectiveness of the power play, it's the frequency of the opponents' power play. Both Kings goals came with Wild captain Mikko Koivu in the penalty box, and in all the Kings were 2-of-7 on the power play. In the wild locker room, the focus was on the 7, and not the 2.

"We spent a lot more time in the penalty box than we can afford to," said Wild forward Matt Cullen. "We kind of shot ourselves in the foot by taking so many penalties...It's tough to play shorthanded all night."

The loss came after the Wild jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and appeared to be in complete command of the game. In the second period, Kings captain Dustin Brown received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for a hit to the head of the Wild's Antti Miettinen, and the all-important third goal seemed to be close at hand.

But as is so often the case, the extended power play switched the momentum, and not the way the home fans hoped. The Kings limited the Wild to just four shots in the five minutes of man-advantage, and not long later, the game was tied.

"We didn't do anything special. That's the way our penalty kill has been going all year," Murray said, admitting that the five-minute penalty kill was the turning point. "That was huge. It was a great special teams night for us. Power play came through and the penalty kill was outstanding."

In the last few weeks, when asked about his team's red-hot power play, Wild coach Todd Richards has repeated the mantra that a slowdown was inevitable. Asked about the recent power outage, Richards was quick to say, "I told you so."

"The questions last week were about how great the power play was," Richards quipped. "And now there's a growing concern? There's no concern. I said it won't last. Teams are too good and they scout. We generated some opportunities but probably would've liked to have generated more."

Out-shot 3-1 in the overtime, the Wild was still in a great position to win the game and get the extra standings point in the shootout. Koivu and Cullen scored on the first two Wild shots of the shootout, but Kings goalie Jon Quick stopped Marek Zidlicky, Brent Burns and Miettinen to get the win.

That leaves Richards and company a few days to recuperate, work on getting the power play mojo back, and find ways to stay out of the penalty box. The Washington Capitals, last year's Presidents Cup winners, arrive in St. Paul on Thursday.

Jess Myers covers the Wild and college hockey for 1500ESPN.com. He is a member of the editorial advisory board for USA Hockey Magazine.
Email Jess | @JessRMyers
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