First 3-on-3 overtime in Wild and Kings history went to the Kings when Anze Kopitar scored the winner from between the circles with 2:41 left.
It amounted to the first win of the season for the Kings and first loss for the Wild, although it rallied in the third to get a point in the standings thanks to Mikko Koivu’s power-play marker 5 ½ minutes into the period.
Please read the game for all the particulars, especially on the fatigue that the Wild demonstrated in the first two periods and the fact that Darcy Kuemper did everything he could to give the Wild that opportunity to tie things up in the third and even win it.
That can be found on www.startribune.com/wild.
Get used to 3-on-3 because it’ll be all about end to end action and one mistake on one end leading to a chance at the other. That was the case on the winner.
Matt Dumba crushed Kopitar with 3:09 left. That led to a freed puck and a chance up ice. Thomas Vanek sent Dumba into the zone. Dumba took a shot from atop the circles that Jonathan Quick turned aside to his right. Dumba fanned on the backhand attempt at the rebound.
Vanek made a good play to get the puck back. Vanek circled to the top of the net and sent it down low to Marco Scandella. Scandella tried to cross a pass to Dumba in the far circle and they couldn’t connect.
This is where things turned south. Very late in his shift, Dumba went for a change. It was a tough time to make a change with the Kings coming with speed now on a 3-on-2.
The Kings had to tag up and wait for Jake Muzzin to get onside before going into the zone. That actually gave Jason Pominville time to get in the play, but Scandella and Vanek got crossed up and Kopitar was left alone to take Tanner Pearson’s pass for the eventual dagger.
A couple missed plays on one end led to the winner at the other. That’s the way it’ll work.
The last minute of the third period and overtime, all Coach’s Challenge scenarios are initiated by Toronto, not the coaches. Mike Yeo still called the refs over because the Kings had left the ice and it didn’t look like the refs were checking. So Yeo challenged that the play was onside, joking afterward that he told them, “I’ll burn my timeout.” The Kings were onside and won the game.
Kuemper made 35 saves and did everything to give the Wild a chance. The Wild trailed 1-0 after two, but it was the Kings who had to be shaking their collective heads. The Wild was being outshot 32-14 through 40 minutes, but Kuemper either saved the day or the Kings slid pucks just wide of the cage. The shot attempts advantage for the Kings though two periods was 61-23: 32 shots on, 19 missed the net, 10 were blocked.
After the game, Yeo said he was “encouraged by the play of Kuemps. Back to back games, we knew what we were going to face tonight. Winless team. It’s not like they’re a team that you’d expect to be winless at this point, so we knew we were coming into a hornet’s nest. We definitely weren’t on top of it, but very proud and very pleased with way we responded in the third period.”
Jonas Brodin got tripped by Nick Shore, and a minute later, Koivu backhanded Zach Parise’s rebound by Jonathan Quick for the Wild’s fourth power-play goal in four games and Koivu’s second goal in as many nights.
The Wild had two more power plays for a chance to take the lead, including one with 2:03 left, but it was unable to get it done.
On the fatigue, Yeo said, “We saw it. As coaches we saw it, for sure. I think the guys were feeling it and to me that’s the mental toughness that I appreciate right there. We didn’t accept being tired in that situation. We dug in, we got to our game in the third period and earned a huge point.
“Only down 1-0 at that point, I felt there was a good opportunity for us to collect ourselves and regroup.”
The Wild actually started well the first five minutes, but it was so obvious fatigue was setting in. The Wild’s passes were hitting skates in the neutral zone or out of reach. They couldn’t get a forecheck going. Clears were fanned on. Players seemed to be doing anything to avoid getting hit.
As I wrote on the pregame blog and last night’s postgame blog, this is what I expected. The way last night’s game unfolded filtered into tonight. The Wild could have cruised to a win against Arizona, but it got sloppy, took penalties and spent the entire second half of the game killing penalties. That was bound to infiltrate tonight’s game, and it did.
“We just weren’t in sync the first two periods,” Yeo said. “Our execution, … plays were almost easy plays and we just couldn’t make them and bare down and hit the guy on the tape and that just led to a lot of time in our zone. As that went on, the more fatigued we got. But the two positives were Kuemps and the way we responded in the third.”
Sunday, the Wild now faces the winless Ducks. Who’da thunk?
“We keep facing teams that are a little ornery, so another good test Sunday,” Yeo said.
Fans are already asking if Yeo comes back with Kuemper on Sunday. My initial gut says no. It’ll be Devan Dubnyk’s net. He’s still the No. 1. He’s still 3-0. But Kuemper was absolutely impressive tonight.
He said he wasn’t necessarily clean early, but he was able to get into a groove and then the guys showed “a lot of character” in the third.
“It’s a tough spot,” Kuemper said. “First back-to-back of the year, it’s tough. The guys stuck with it all game. Although they probably took it to us for a large part of the first two periods, we were able to battle defensively, give us ourselves a chance and came out with that kind of effort in the third and tie it up.”
That’s it for me. I’ll write about the defense in Sunday’s paper and some of the good and bad we’ve seen so far and how the Wild’s still trying to get a handle on the top-6 and how to make sure Scandella doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. In the third tonight, Rick Wilson pretty much sat Christian Folin and scrambled five.
I’ll also write more about this game since the game story likely didn’t get into most editions and certainly didn’t have quotes. That’s what happens with 9:30 starts unfortunately.
The Wild felt fortunate to get a point tonight. It found its legs in the third, got great goaltending. But bottom line, as Zach Parise said, the Wild played one good period and two “mediocre ones.” The Wild is 3-0-1 and hasn’t played a full 60 yet. In fact, you can arguably say the Wild played four or five poor periods. But, like I said, it has seven out of eight points.
The Wild will take it.
The Wild will rest up Saturday and have only an off-ice workout, so with no practice, no access. That means all lineup questions (goalie, Folin vs. Prosser) will be answered Sunday morning, so don't ask!