Purple pain: Kings outlast Wild 4-2
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In a game that defied several recent trends, and caused the Minnesota Wild to fall one notch in the Western Conference playoff race, the Los Angeles Kings scored a pair in the third period, winning 4-2.
The contest was a true rarity for Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, who not only lost (which he hasn't done much lately), but allowed three goals or more for just the fifth time in his last 18 games. The win moved the Kings ahead of the Wild into fifth place in the Western Conference, while the Wild dropped to sixth. The Wild is one of five teams (Chicago, Dallas, Nashville and Calgary are the others) all tied with 70 points. If the playoffs started today, due to tiebreakers, Nashville and Calgary would be left out.
It was a road game for the Wild, two time zones away from home, but the choppy ice sheet at the Staples Center may have been nearly as foreign a territory for the home team as it was for the club from Minnesota. Thanks to the NBA All-Star Game and a bunch of other events, the Kings were playing at home Thursday for the first time since Jan. 26.
Although the one King who looked right at home was Wayne Simmonds, who scored to give his team 1-0 and 2-1 leads. He was matched through two periods by the Wild's Eric Nystrom, who scored his second goal in four games after getting just one (an empty-netter) in the first 57 games of the season. And with 4.5 seconds left in the middle period and the Wild on a power play, Brent Burns snapped a month-long goal scoring drought, getting a shot through a crowd and into the back of the net, knotting the score at 2-2.
For Burns, it was his 15th goal of the season and tied the mark he'd set in 2008 for most goals in a season by a Wild defenseman. Nystrom's offensive outburst may have been in some small way a result of having a familiar face on the bench. With Mikko Koivu out with a broken finger, and Kyle Brodziak missing the trip to California due to illness, the Wild recalled Jed Ortmeyer from Houston and the Omaha native made his Wild debut in Los Angeles. Ortmeyer and Nystrom were once linemates at the University of Michigan, most notably in the 2002 and 2003 seasons, when the Wolverines made it to the Frozen Four, only to be ousted by the Gophers both times.
But the Kings got all of the third period goals, one of them into an empty net, as the fourth and final regular season meeting between these teams was the only one that ended in regulation.
The Wild was also sporting a new look on defense, with Cam Barker missing the trip due to injury. The team recalled Elk River native Nate Prosser from Houston, but he watched the game from the pressbox.
The Wild has little time to rest, facing the Ducks and newly-acquired goaltender Dan Ellis (who came over in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning for Curtis McElhinney on Thursday) in Anaheim on Friday night. Jose Theodore is expected to start in goal.