LOS ANGELES – It’s been nearly three months since the Wild squared off against the Jets, the team’s opponent in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs – a matchup that was finalized when the Predators locked up the Central Division title, hemming the Jets into the second seed ahead of the third-place Wild.
And while the Jets are a unique challenge, one of only four teams in the NHL to eclipse 50 wins, it looked like the Wild received a refresher course on their style via the Kings.
Like Winnipeg, Los Angeles is meaty. Its players can skate, and the defense is stout.
Time will tell how the Wild fares against the Jets’ version of this combination, but it didn’t bow down to the Kings – chipping away at a third-period deficit to earn a hard-fought point in a 5-4 overtime loss Thursday in front of 18,230 at Staples Center to sit 0-1-1 on its season-ending road trip through California that wraps Saturday in San Jose.
“All these teams we play in the West, they got similar builds, and it’s big,” defenseman Matt Dumba said. “It’s big hockey, a lot of good skating, good, strong forwards. So it’s more of the same. We’ll see another team like that in San Jose coming up. I think that’s good preparation for what we have in store with Winnipeg.”
Kings winger Dustin Brown scored his fourth on the game on a blistering one-timer only 23 seconds into the extra period after completing a hat trick in under two periods of play.
Center Eric Staal put the rally in motion just 5:42 into the third when he scored off a one-timer, his 41st of the season.
An unlikely contributor in an unexpected scenario delivered the tying goal, as defenseman Nate Prosser finished off a shorthanded break at 9:42.
“Everyone’s going absolutely nuts,” Dumba said. “I thought the game was over. It’s good to see that out of our group.”
Prosser wired the puck by goalie Jonathan Quick for just his third goal of the season.
“I wanted to get it up,” Prosser said. “That’s first and foremost because Quick goes down in butterfly. I just wanted to get it up and was able to get it over his shoulder.”
The Kings had a glorious chance to resume control of the game on a late five-on-three look, but they couldn’t cash in until Brown’s game-winner in overtime. Los Angeles went 1-for-6 with the man advantage. The Wild was 0-for-1. Both goalies finished with 23 saves.
“It seems like that in the second half this year that’s what we do, never give up and always come back,” Dumba said. “You can see the character in the room, and our guys are pulling for each other.”
This wasn’t the first time the Wild had to rally.
Brown scored his first on the first shot of the game, deflecting a Christian Folin shot by goalie Alex Stalock just 55 seconds after puck drop.
The Wild responded soon after, at 3:12, when defenseman Ryan Murphy’s shot slid through traffic and eluded Quick, and only 1:50 later, the Wild took the lead when winger Mikael Granlund fed Dumba for a one-timer.
In the second, Los Angeles converted amid a string of three power plays.
Two of those penalties against the Wild overlapped, giving the Kings a five-on-three advantage for 1:19. And they capitalized, with Brown directing in a Jeff Carter pass 7:42 into the second.
Later in the period, the Kings retook the lead on a redirect by winger Tobias Rieder at 12:57 and Brown capped off a dominant period by Los Angeles, which outshot the Wild 14-4, with his third goal of the game at 19:10 when he wired a wrister by Stalock that appeared to clip defenseman Jonas Brodin before scooting in the net.
That seemed to be a wakeup call for the Wild, as it improved drastically in the third to help it snag a point – which bumped up its total to 99 on the season.
“We’ve been like that all year,” Staal said. “When we’ve been kicked down certain nights and certain games, we’ve responded the next game or the next night. It’s good to see, and hopefully that continues because those are important things for success in the playoffs.”