ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Kings and Minnesota Wild played 60 minutes, as scheduled, on Monday night. Two of those minutes, however, loomed largest at the end.
Having battled back from a two-goal deficit to tie the game early in the third period, the Kings were handed a golden opportunity to take the lead with a two-minute, 5-on-3 advantage. They didn’t score, and recorded only two shots on goal.
Less than four minutes later, Martin Havlat ripped a slap shot for a power-play goal, and the Wild held on to beat the Kings 3-2 before 18,284 at Xcel Energy Center.
The losses are mounting for the Kings, who remain in seventh place in the Western Conference despite an 0-3-1 record in their last four games. On Tuesday night, they face a Nashville team that has beaten them in seven consecutive games.
With seven games remaining, the Kings are one point behind sixth-place Detroit, one point ahead of eighth-place Colorado and five points ahead of ninth-place Calgary.
``I thought we had a good attitude all game, even after they killed off that 5-on-3,’’ Kings captain Dustin Brown said. ``Our belief on the bench, with a minute left, was, `We're going to tie this game.' So I think it's a step in the right direction, along with our work ethic.
``We didn't make the best plays out there sometimes, but I guess the best way to put it, not just tonight but in general, is that I can live with 100-percent effort and mistakes, compared to no effort and no mistakes. Sometimes you've got to lose some games that you're supposed to win. Right now, we've got to forget about it.’’
Kings rookie winger Scott Parse had his first-ever two-goal game, but the Kings once again lost the special-teams battle, this time in a major way.
The Kings allowed two power-play goals on three chances and, after a long run of penalty-kill success, are now just 10-for-18 on the penalty kill in their last three games.
The other side of the coin wasn’t any better, as the Kings went 0-for-4 on the power and are now 2-for-18 in their last three games. The Kings had a 5-on-3 advantage for 2:52 in Monday’s game, including the game-turning power play in the third.
After the Wild took a 2-0 lead, Parse scored with 7:13 remaining in the second period, then tied the game 1:25 into the third period. Just 35 seconds later, Marek Zidlicky was called for hooking and Nick Schultz was called for cross-checking.
The Kings had the perfect opportunity, particularly since the Wild trio of Greg Zanon, Brent Burns and Mikko Koivu was stuck on the ice for the full two minutes, unable to clear the puck and get a line change.
How did the power play go for the Kings? Like this: Missed shot by Drew Doughty, shot on goal by Brown, shot on goal by Jarret Stoll, blocked shot on Stoll, missed shot by Brown, blocked shot on Stoll, missed shot by Stoll, blocked shot on Stoll, missed shot by Stoll.
That’s two minutes, two shots on goal, four missed shots and three blocked shots.
``They did a great job with it,’’ Kings coach Terry Murray said of the Wild. ``You've got to give those guys a lot of credit for their penalty kill, but on the other side of it, when you have a 5-on-3, that's a critical moment in the game, and that's when you have to show the composure to make plays, find people, get the right shooting opportunities and then put pucks to the net. That's a choice, and obviously in that look we made some decisions that were not as good as what they could have been.’’
The Wild seemed to generate great momentum from their penalty kill, and less than four minutes after they completed it, Havlat scored the game-winner on the power play.
``This game was a lot different from the last three, I think,’’ Brown said. ``We had a lot of opportunities. Our special teams need to be better, that's for sure, both power play and penalty kill. We have two 5-on-3s and we don't capitalize. It's all about results, this time of the year, but I'm not going to sit here and say we didn't play a good game 5-on-5, because I thought we did. Special teams are important. That's where I think the game was won and lost tonight.’’
The Kings regained the services of defenseman Matt Greene on Monday but lost defenseman Randy Jones. Greene missed the previous three games with an upper-body injury, and Jones is considered day-to-day because of an elbow injury.
Before the game, the Kings called up Jonathan Bernier from Manchester of the AHL, under emergency conditions, to serve as the backup goalie to Jonathan Quick, with Erik Ersberg suffering from a strained back. Bernier is also expected to start in goal when the Kings play at Nashville on Tuesday.
Quick made 17 saves but Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom made 29 saves.
The Kings outshot the Wild 6-5 in a scoreless first period that also had no penalties. The best chance of the period came with 4:15 remaining when, after a scramble in front of the Minnesota net, and Backstrom prone on the ice, Stoll shot from a sharp angle and shot over the net.
On the game's first power play, Minnesota's Andrew Ebbett tried a long-range wrist shot, and the rebound came out to Owen Nolan in the slot. Nolan scored at the 1:19 mark of the second period.
Minnesota took a 2-0 lead with a 4-on-4 goal 7:26 into the second period. Burns took the puck at the Kings' blue line, put a move on Brad Richardson and went to the net to beat Quick from close range.
The Kings pulled within one goal on Parse's goal with 7:13 remaining in the second period. Parse shot through traffic and benefited from a deflection off the stick of Minnesota's Casey Wellman. Jack Johnson and Richardson got assists.
The Kings tied the game 1:25 into the third period on Parse's second goal of the game. Richardson dug the puck out of the corner, in the Minnesota zone, and fed it to Parse, whose one-time slap shot from the top of the right circle beat Backstrom.
After the Kings failed with a full two minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage, the Wild scored a power-play goal 7:38 into the third period. Havlat went for a long-range slap shot and beat Quick high, with Andrew Brunette running traffic directly in front of the net.
``The first (power-play) goal Nolan gets, you don't want to see that one,’’ Murray said. ``That's just throwing a puck to the net and it goes through a couple people. On Havlat's goal, we made a wrong decision on that one. Too many guys chasing the puck-carrier as he entered the zone. That comes right to us. It wasn't a great play by Minnesota. It was more a breakdown on our part of it.’’