ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Both the Los Angeles Kings and the Minnesota Wild know only one loss will put them behind in the playoff race.
On Tuesday night, it was the Kings who played like contenders.
Trent Klatt scored midway though the third period to break a tie, and Roman Cechmanek made 22 saves as the Kings beat the Wild 3-1.
``It was a big win for us,'' Klatt said. ``As tight as the race is, two points are all that matter.''
The Kings entered the game tied with three teams for sixth place in the Western Conference. They play their next four games on the road.
``If other teams lose, it's great,'' coach Andy Murray said. ``But we know the main thing is that we've got to keep winning.''
Eric Belanger scored his 11th goal for the Kings and Ian Laperriere added an empty-netter with less than 26 seconds left in the third period.
Cechmanek had plenty of help from his teammates, who swarmed around the net and made every shot difficult for the Wild, who had scored eight goals in two straight victories before the All-Star break.
``We're trying to play a game where we give up two goals or less,'' Murray said. ``We don't sit back and trap, and neither does the Wild. They have an aggressive forecheck and we tried to play an aggressive game tonight, too.''
The Wild came out aggressive, but played in spurts in the third period. After the game, a frustrated coach Jacques Lemaire said he team tired and made sloppy mistakes.
``It's very frustrating, especially with the types of mistakes we are making,'' he said.
Fresh off his first NHL All-Star appearance, Dwayne Roloson stopped 29 shots for the Wild. Andrew Brunette scored a power-play goal for Minnesota, which went 1-for-6 with the man advantage.
The Wild began the day in 10th place and five points behind the four teams tied for sixth. This wasn't how Minnesota wanted to come out of the break.
``This puts them seven points up and it could take a month to get seven points back,'' Lemaire said.
A day after Murray and his staff were given contract extensions, the Kings _ undefeated in seven games _ did themselves proud with an outstanding defensive effort, disrupting the speedy Wild's offense.
Belanger broke the scoreless tie with a hard shot from the right circle that zipped past Roloson's shoulder at 8:59 of the second period.
But the Wild tied the game late in the period after some costly Kings penalties.
Klatt was called for high-sticking with 1:38 left in the second after catching Sergei Zholtok in the face. Belanger was called for hooking just 14 seconds later, giving the Wild a 5-on-3 power play.
Brunette put in a rebound off Jason Wiemer's close shot.
Mattias Norstrom shoved Brunette from behind after the goal and drew a cross-checking penalty, giving Minnesota another 1:30 with a two-man advantage.
But the Kings stayed aggressive on defense and killed the power play.
``As much momentum as they got by scoring that one, we got it right back by not giving up any more,'' Klatt said.
Klatt regained the lead at 8:01 of the third period. With a defender draped across his shoulders, Klatt skated from behind the net and was able to sneak the puck behind Roloson's right skate.