LOS ANGELES – The great unknown in matinees, especially for teams as unaccustomed to them as the Wild, is whether the players hit the snooze button rather than guzzle the coffee.
The puck drop at the Staples Center on Sunday was noon. The Wild’s normal road morning skate would have been 11:30 a.m.
The Wild, however, brushed off the yawns and emerged with an attack mentality. Problem is, so did star goalie Jonathan Quick.
In yet another game when the Wild generated more than enough chances to win, Quick, the two-time Stanley Cup champion and one-time playoff MVP, challenged, sprawled and contorted his otherwise outplayed Los Angeles Kings to a 2-1 win.
“We played very well from start to finish,” said Zach Parise — who was denied six times, including on a brilliant chance in the final minutes — after the Wild outshot the Kings 41-16. “I don’t remember — maybe one or two times — being stuck in our zone. Other than that, we controlled a lot of the play.
“Quick played a fantastic game. That’s what, I guess, everyone’s grown accustomed to seeing is a game like that out of him.”
The Wild, two days after feeling it left a bunch of goals on Anaheim’s ice, scored twice on an 0-2 road trip — including Matt Cooke’s third-period goal Sunday — and fell to 2-2 this season. Most frustrating is it dominated large stretches of both games against the Pacific Division’s elite, only to be derailed by a maddening lack of finish.
Sunday, the Wild’s power play had five chances to tie the score, including twice in the third period. It couldn’t do it despite tons of offensive-zone time and 14 shots. The power play is 0-for-16 this season.
“It’s a matter of time that it’s going to go in,” said captain Mikko Koivu, without a point in four games. “When you get that first power-play goal, you get the feeling and it’s going to get easier after that. But at the end, it’s about scoring goals and winning games, and we didn’t do that.”
And that was coach Mike Yeo’s postgame message. Yeo said it’s important to properly evaluate the game and not get overly caught up in the end result this early, “but at the same time, we’ve got to find ways to win hockey games. … So if we have to be better, let’s make sure we’re better.”
Talented youngsters Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, who have combined for eight of the Kings’ 14 goals, scored in the first and third periods. In his season debut, Niklas Backstrom made 14 saves and had no shot on either goal, Yeo said.
On a first-period power play, Mike Richards tried to cross a pass to the far post for Jeff Carter. But the puck ricocheted off defenseman Ryan Suter’s right skate and to an oncoming Toffoli with Backstrom sliding to his left.
In the third, Marco Scandella fell behind the net and the Wild’s coverage broke down, leaving Pearson wide open before a bang-bang Toffoli-to-Pearson laser beam one-timer.
The Wild had great jump early, was first on pucks and created lots of chances. The first and third lines were humming, but every time, Quick was there. He saw everything — redirections, broken plays, point-blank shots — and acrobatically slithered across the crease all game.
Parise and Koivu tried not to overreact to the disappointment of losing.
“I like how we’re playing,” Parise said.
“Defensively, the whole team is right where we want to be,” Koivu said.
Offensively, “it’s frustrating,” said Thomas Vanek, who has zero goals in four games. “There’s not much we can change besides scoring goals. It’s not like we were trying to be too pretty. We were shooting a lot, we were tipping, we were going for rebounds.
“[Quick] was good. He was on top of his game, which we all know he’s a world-class goalie, and he showed that tonight.”