Minnesota had something on the line. It showed.
Fighting to maintain playoff hopes as they cling to a wild-card spot in the West, Minnesota overcame two Kings deficits, winning 3-2 with two third period goals, putting an end to the Kings’ six-game win streak.
It was a tough go for the Kings in establishing offensive zone pressure Monday night, recording just 20 shots on Minnesota’s Ilya Bryzgalov, battling to find space and access throughout the night in Minnesota’s end.
The Kings played their best hockey in the opening minutes, which was accompanied by Alec Martinez’s 11th goal of the season, giving the Kings a 1-0 lead 6:30 into the first period.
Martinez snuck in from the point as Anze Kopitar controlled the puck deep in Minnesota’s zone, received a pass from Kopitar, and one-timed a shot past Bryzgalov, scoring his second goal in three games.
Early in the second period, Tanner Pearson was sent to the penalty box for a hooking infraction, and Minnesota’s power play executed. Zach Parise tipped home a shot to tie the game 1-1 3:37 into the second period.
Justin Williams reclaimed the lead for the Kings minutes later, slamming home a back-door set-up from Marian Gaborik for his 19th goal of the season, giving the Kings a 2-1 lead with 8:11 remaining in the second period.
Gaborik, with his assist on Williams’ goal, now has points in four straight games (1G, 4A), and nine points (3G, 6A) in the last 10 games.
The Kings entered the third period with a 2-1 lead; they’ve only lost one game this season when holding the lead after 40 minutes, going 25-1-0 when doing so.
Drew Doughty, who recorded two hits and two blocked shots in 26:17 of ice time Monday night, chimed in on the Kings inability to hold their third period lead:
“Keeping the lead in the third period is usually our team’s forte, but we didn’t play very well in the second, and we had a little collapse in the third period where they got two really quick, and we couldn’t get it back. They’re a good defensive hockey team and we knew that if we let them back in the game it would be tough to win it, and we just didn’t do a good enough job.”
Minnesota tied the game 3:54 into the third period, as former King Matt Moulson buried a shot from the slot; Mikko Koivu gave the Wild a 3-2 lead just 1:02 later.
The Kings struggled to crack Minnesota’s zone thereafter, recording just five shots during the final 20 minutes.
In three games against the Wild this season, the Kings went 1-1-1.
Monday night was the second time the Kings have lost this season when entering the third period with a lead. They’ve held the lead 27 times after two periods, going 25-2-0 when doing so.
With a 44-26-6 record, good for 94 points, the Kings lead the Phoenix Coyotes by 10 points for the Pacific Division’s third and final guaranteed playoff spot.
They’ll play Phoenix in their next game Wednesday night, which is the second-to-last regular season game at STAPLES Center, slated for a 7:30 PM PST puck drop.