LOS ANGELES – Instead of traveling in geographical order by playing the two Southern California teams in succession, stops in Anaheim and Los Angeles bookended the Wild’s four-game, 10-day road trip.
And while the team logged extra air miles with an itinerary like that, the upside was that its final matchup was against one of the few clubs in the NHL below it in the standings – a glorious opportunity to wrap the trek a resounding success at 3-1.
But the Wild couldn’t take advantage of the schedule nor its opponent, sagging for a 3-1 letdown to the Kings on Tuesday in front of 16,099 at Staples Center to finish 2-2 and sit 6-11-1 overall and 3-10 on the road.
“It puts a damper on it, for sure,” defenseman Matt Dumba said of the outcome’s effect on the trip. “... You got a four-hour trip home tomorrow on a plane. Turns out it’s going to be pretty quiet tomorrow.”
In staying on brand, the Wild fell behind by two goals.
Although the team overcome that deficit at the outset to shrug off the Ducks 4-2 on Nov. 5 and climbed out of that hole twice last Saturday to rally 4-3 over the Coyotes, it couldn’t stage one more comeback against the Kings.
The Wild’s other loss on this road swing was a 6-5 setback to the Sharks on Nov. 7, a close result after the team gave up four goals in the first period.
“It’s a bad formula for success,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “There’s no doubt.”
Kings captain Anze Kopitar continued the trend of the opposition striking first against the Wild when he put back a puck 1 minute, 10 seconds after the opening faceoff that goalie Devan Dubnyk failed to cover completely.
A pair of power plays later in the period gave the Wild a chance to pull even, but the chances actually seemed to hurt the team’s already disjointed rhythm instead of helping it. The Wild managed just one shot on the two looks and was blanked again early in the second to go 0-for-3. Los Angeles went 0-for-2.
Near the midway point of the second, at 10:56, the Kings doubled their lead.
After winning an offensive-zone faceoff, winger Jeff Carter charged to the net where he put back the rebound from a Michael Amadio shot to make it 2-0.
As if on cue, the Wild responded soon after – recapturing the resiliency that’s fueled its triumphs on this tour of the Pacific Division.
With 4:20 to go in the middle frame, the team trimmed its deficit in half on a shot by Dumba.
The goal was Dumba’s second in as many games, after he contributed to the comeback Saturday in Arizona. This was Dumba’s first goal streak since he scored three in a row Nov. 13-17, 2018.
In the third, the Wild kept applying pressure – cycling the puck in the Kings’ zone and maintaining possession with the aid of its defensemen jumping up into the play.
But the Wild couldn’t find that next goal like it had in its previous games.
Give credit to Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick, who was at his best in the third. He totaled 27 saves on the night and had nine in the final 20 minutes. One of his best came against winger Mats Zuccarello from the slot, a puck that appeared to clip Quick in the mask before sailing over the net.
“We still believed we could come back obviously, but just didn’t happen for us,” winger Luke Kunin said.
Dubnyk had 32 stops for the Wild.
The Kings tacked on an empty-net goal from defenseman Sean Walker with 47 seconds to go.
“When we get looks, we gotta capitalize,” Dumba said. “We gotta execute. I know I had one at the start of the third. I put that in the net, it’s a different game. I think we all gotta hold ourselves a little more accountable in that sense and capitalizing and bearing down.”