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Continued: Numbers just don't add up in Wild loss

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Last update: February 25, 2011 - 3:26 PM

LOS ANGELES - Inside the Staples Center, John Madden was centering the second line, at times playing the power play. Cody Almond was centering the third line, at times getting penalty-kill duty. Eric Nystrom moved from wing to center.

Guys are playing unfamiliar roles, but such is life right now for the Wild, which is playing for an extended period without No. 1 center Mikko Koivu and, for the time being, No. 2 center Kyle Brodziak, who's not on the road trip because of illness.

The shorthanded Wild gave it one heck of a try Thursday night, but the big, fast and healthy Los Angeles Kings, wearing their throwback purples, triumphed for a big 4-2 victory to leapfrog Minnesota in the standings.

"Guys played hard all the way to the end," Wild coach Todd Richards said. "That was a pretty intense, pretty physical game. I'm proud of the way the guys battled. ... We just came up a little short.

"It would have been an easy game to throw the towel in on, but I'm real happy the way they played the game. We weren't perfect by any means, but we tried."

The Kings, who hadn't played at home since Jan. 26 and were coming off a 6-1-3 road trip, moved to fifth in the West, while Minnesota dropped to sixth, sitting atop four other teams all tied with 70 points. The Wild visits Anaheim tonight.

Wayne Simmonds scored two goals for the Kings and Drew Doughty scored the winner 5:39 into the third. Nystrom and Brent Burns scored for Minnesota as Niklas Backstrom, who made 26 saves, allowed more than two goals for only the fifth time in the past 18 games.

The last goal came with Minnesota on its second power play in the waning minutes with the game on the line. With 1:27 left, Richards pulled Backstrom for an extra attacker and 6-on-4 advantage.

Matt Cullen told his wingers he'd tie up center Michal Handzus on the draw. Cullen did, causing a scrum. But the puck went the wrong way ... right to Anze Kopitar, who fired 150 feet dead-center of the empty net.

The complete opposite happened with 4 1/2 seconds left in the second period when Cullen tied up Jarret Stoll, and while fallen on the ice, kicked the puck to Brent Burns for the tying goal.

But that happened in the left circle. This happened in the right, which is where the Wild really missed Brodziak, the Wild's lone righthanded drawman. In the third period, the Kings was 13 of 17 faceoffs. Madden lost 12 of 17 in the game, while Nystrom and Almond won 4 of 12.

The Wild also desperately missed Koivu and Brodziak in the defensive zone, where the gigantic Kings, who pursue pucks and battle for everything, had their way at times.

"[Cullen and Madden] had to push a little bit harder down low in D-zone coverage," Richards said.

The Kings, who have the fourth-best home penalty kill in the NHL, aggressively killed those last two Wild power plays in the final 7:30 and four in the game.

"Our power play wasn't as good as it needed to be in the big moments," Cullen said. "It wasn't there tonight. We didn't execute the way we needed to, especially coming up the ice."

The Kings did coming up the ice on the winner.

Early in the third, the Kings forced a turnover and exploded out of the zone with speed. Still, all things were covered until Doughty, the Kings' hotshot defenseman, lost Madden and buried Dustin Brown's pass from the top of the right circle.

"I got kind of a late jump coming out of the zone," Madden said. "One of their defensemen bumped me and knocked me off balance. So my first couple steps were a little behind Doughty. I knew he was there. I just couldn't catch up to him in time. I thought I had my stick in the right spot. But he quickly snapped it.

"Good play by their part and a missed assignment by me."

But it was especially a "good play."

"That's something you work at hard all year long where you get that drive, drive, drive attitude," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "Stoll drives through the net, backs off the defenseman, Brown comes in late and finds Doughty and executes the play the right way."

With the Wild trailing 1-0 after a one-sided opening period for the Kings, Nystrom tied the score when he fought through defenseman Willie Mitchell and defensive stalwart center Michal Handzus, then lunged forward to poke the puck like a pool ball.

The puck slid underneath Jonathan Bernier for Nystrom's second goal in four games after scoring one in his first 57.

But the Kings took a 2-1 lead on Simmond's pure determination. With the Wild having momentum until one shift earlier, Simmonds hopped the boards and fought through Burns' checking. He dropped the puck for Kopitar on the cycle, cut to the slot, lost Burns, received the pass back from Kopitar and whistled it by Backstrom.

The goal happened at the 10:18. The rest of the period, remarkably, belonged to the Wild.

The team, playing shorthanded, responded impressively by picking up its play, intensity and physicality. Cal Clutterbuck had nine hits in the game, Martin Havlat eight shots.

Minnesota buzzed the Kings' net over and over, but Bernier preserved the lead until a late Doughty interference minor with 10 seconds left led to Burns' tying goal, his 15th to tie his career high and own team record for goals by a defenseman.

It was Burns' first goal since Jan. 22, snapping a 12-game goal drought. The Kings, who had given up 10 power-play goals at home all year, killed 22 in a row at that point.

Still, Cullen felt there were spurts in the game when the Wild played a hard-nosed forechecking, fast style, but "we didn't do it enough."

Now, the Wild heads to Anaheim in a huge game.

"It's the biggest game right now getting two points tomorrow," said Madden.

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Tampa 1 Bottom 6th Inning
Philadelphia 2
LA Clippers 71 4th Qtr 10:17
Chicago 69
Cleveland 2:30 PM
Houston
Golden State 5:00 PM
Boston
Philadelphia 5:00 PM
Indiana
Portland 5:00 PM
Sacramento
Charlotte 5:00 PM
Orlando
Oklahoma City 5:30 PM
LA Lakers
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Denver
Los Angeles 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Tampa Bay 4:00 PM
Florida
Columbus 4:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Toronto 6:00 PM
Washington
Anaheim 7:00 PM
Dallas
St. Louis 8:30 PM
Vancouver
SMU 24 1st Half 0:08
Connecticut 30
Quinnipiac 31 1st Half 0:40
Manhattan 34
Fairfield 32 1st Half 0:32
Niagara 26
Marist 23 2nd Half
Rider 21
Iona 29 2nd Half
Saint Peters 38
Oregon State 2:00 PM
California
South Florida 2:00 PM
Houston
Marquette 2:30 PM
Providence
Michigan State 3:00 PM
Wisconsin
Siena 3:30 PM
Monmouth
Pittsburgh 5:30 PM
Wake Forest
Oregon 6:00 PM
Stanford
Purdue 6:30 PM
Ohio State
Arizona State 7:30 PM
Colorado
Washington St 8:30 PM
UCLA
Georgetown 66 FINAL
Providence 81
Binghamton 50 FINAL
UMBC 73
Elon 56 2nd Half 3:50
Hofstra 52
Virginia Tech 47 FINAL
Boston College 49
(8) Louisville 54 2nd Half 2:20
Virginia 65
Texas 61 2nd Half 0:20
West Virginia 59
Creighton 53 FINAL
Villanova 61
Seton Hall 85 FINAL
Butler 76
UNC-Wilmington 73 2nd Half 1:40
Coll of Charleston 59
(5) Maryland 69 FINAL
(25) Northwestern 48
Saint Josephs 67 FINAL
La Salle 55
Louisiana Tech 46 2nd Half 4:00
TX-San Antonio 56
Rhode Island 29 1st Half 0:28
Massachusetts 38
Richmond 20 2nd Half
VA Commonwealth 23
Davidson 21 2nd Half
Fordham 31
St Bonaventure 25 2nd Half
Duquesne 25
George Mason 22 2nd Half
(22) George Washington 45
Indiana 26 2nd Half
(20) Rutgers 30
(12) Texas A&M 29 1st Half 1:59
LSU 42
Ole Miss 16 2nd Half
(11) Miss State 28
Clemson 30 2nd Half
Pittsburgh 22
Maine 21 2nd Half
New Hampshire 28
Vermont 22 2nd Half
Albany 30
Quinnipiac 30 1st Half 2:41
Monmouth 17
Saint Peters 23 2nd Half
Siena 25
(4) Notre Dame 37 2nd Half
NC State 31
Wisconsin 36 2nd Half
Penn State 24
Stony Brook 19 2nd Half
Hartford 24
Northeastern 20 2nd Half
William & Mary 32
St Johns 31 2nd Half
Xavier 23
James Madison 36 2nd Half
Delaware 39
Towson 2:00 PM
Drexel
Illinois State 2:00 PM
Bradley
Southern Ill 2:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago
Northern Iowa 2:00 PM
Wichita State
Minnesota 2:00 PM
(17) Iowa
(15) North Carolina 2:00 PM
(16) Duke
Alabama 2:00 PM
Auburn
(9) Florida State 2:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Arkansas 2:00 PM
Missouri
Georgia 2:00 PM
Florida
Dayton 2:00 PM
Saint Louis
Drake 2:05 PM
Missouri State
Colorado 3:00 PM
(10) Arizona State
(19) Stanford 3:00 PM
Oregon
Marquette 3:00 PM
DePaul
Southern Miss 3:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Vanderbilt 4:00 PM
(6) Tennessee
(2) South Carolina 4:00 PM
(13) Kentucky
Utah 4:00 PM
Arizona
Ohio State 4:00 PM
Nebraska
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