Wild cruise past defenseless Kings
SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- The Los Angeles Kings, who lost star goaltender Jonathan Quick to an injury in the season opener, are off to a nightmare start.
The Minnesota Wild blasted past the still-winless Kings 6-3 Tuesday, scoring five times on their first 15 shots as Los Angeles looked overmatched defensively.
Erik Haula, Jason Pominville, Charlie Coyle, Mikko Koivu and Teemu Pulkkinen scored for Minnesota (2-1-0). Defenseman Jared Spurgeon added a 190-foot, empty-net goal with 2:18 to play to cap the scoring.
“All I know is that if I was playing, I’d shoot from everywhere,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “When you know that you’ve got a goalie that’s a little bit rattled, you’ve got to get pucks at the net.”
Los Angeles (0-3-0) got two goals from Tanner Pearson -- one of them in the opening minute of the game. Not much went right after that, until late goals from Anze Kopitar and Pearson got Los Angeles back within a pair before the Minnesota empty-net goal.
Kings starting goalie Jeff Zatkoff had just 11 saves on 16 shots in the first two periods. He was pulled in favor of Peter Budaj, who made nine third-period saves.
They form the goalie tandem that is being called on to hold the fort after Quick, who backstopped the Kings to Stanley Cup titles in 2012 and 2014, went down last week. Quick is out indefinitely with a groin injury.
“I said it when Jonathan got hurt: There’s not one thing I can do about it or anyone can do about it,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “I expect the guys who are in there to play as well as they can, and if they play as well as they can, that’s good. That’s all you can do. That’s what you do, right?”
Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper stopped 27 of 30 shots.
With Los Angeles trailing 5-1 in the third, Kopitar whacked a loose puck under Kuemper’s left leg pad to pull the Kings back within three at 6:42 of the period. Pearson got his second of the game at 14:35, but it was not enough.
The Kings buzzed around Kuemper right from the start, and they needed less than a minute to take a 1-0 lead on their second shot of the game.
From the blue line, with a crowd between him and the net, Pearson popped a seeing-eye shot through traffic that eluded Kuemper’s late attempt at a glove save. It was the first goal of the season for Pearson, who was scratched in the Kings’ first two games.
Not to be outdone, the Wild scored on their first shot of the game just 46 seconds later. Haula’s low blast from the top of the left circle slid between Zatkoff’s knees for a quick 1-1 tie. It was also the first goal of the season for Haula.
The shots kept coming in both directions, with the Kings hitting a trio of pipes, and Zatkoff using a sliding pad save to thwart Haula on a breakaway. Minnesota killed a pair of penalties and looked to head to the dressing room tied before Pominville took a pass from Haula and ripped a wrist shot from long range that beat Zatkoff’s glove in the closing seconds of the first.
“Yeah, I got away with a couple there,” Kuemper said, with a nod to the Kings hitting iron repeatedly. “The post is a goalie’s best friend, and they bailed me out a little bit early. After the first, I felt my game got a lot better and I started to feel more comfortable, more up to the game speed. Luckily, I got bailed out a little bit early.”
Minnesota ran into penalty trouble again in the second period, getting whistled for back-to-back infractions that had Los Angeles on a five-on-three advantage for nearly a minute. The Wild killed it off, then pulled away with a power-play goal by Coyle and even-strength goals from Koivu and Pulkkinen for a 5-1 lead after 40 minutes.
“We’re just not playing good enough hockey now,” Kopitar said. “We’re going to have to come back to work and clean it up. Giving up four and six goals, that’s just not going to cut it. You don’t have to be a scientist to figure it out. Cut that down, and go from there.”
NOTES: Injured Kings RW Marian Gaborik last played for Minnesota in 2009, but he remains the Wild’s franchise leader in goals (219) and is second in points (437). He was the Wild’s first-ever draft pick in 2000, taken third overall. He is currently out of Los Angeles’ lineup due to a foot injury sustained while skating for Slovakia in the World Cup last month. ... Kings D Matt Greene was a healthy scratch, replaced by Tom Gilbert on the blue line for the first time this season. Gilbert, who signed with Los Angeles in the offseason, is a Minnesota native who played 63 games for the Wild between 2011 and 2013. ... The Kings, who are traveling outside California for the first time this season, visit the Dallas Stars on Thursday. The Wild close out a three-game homestand Thursday when the Toronto Maple Leafs come to Minnesota for the only time this season.