A puck slicing through traffic, a bounce off a shin pad and a rising backhander in the shootout.
That diverse series of goals by the Wild is what it took to ultimately shrug off goaltender Jonathan Quick and the last-place Kings with a 3-2 extra-time victory Tuesday in front of 19,017 at Xcel Energy Center that ended the team’s two-game slide against some of the NHL’s bottom feeders.
“We did what we had to do,” said winger Jason Zucker, who supplied the clincher in the one-on-one battle with Quick — the first deciding shootout goal of his career. “It wasn’t the prettiest game we ever played, but we did what we had to do. We battled.”
Although it required more time to complete, this was the result the Wild deserved — especially considering players didn’t get discouraged against Quick, who was impressive.
The Los Angeles netminder made 40 saves, 14 of which came in a scoreless first period and another five in overtime.
“He’s a world-class goalie, and he stood on his head [Tuesday and] made some unbelievable saves,” said Quick’s counterpart, Wild backup Alex Stalock. “… We tested him all night with Grade A after Grade A [chances]. He fought back and fought back. Obviously, it took a shootout to beat him.”
Not until 10 minutes, 16 seconds into the second period did the Wild finally solve Quick on a shot from winger Nino Niederreiter that sailed through a sea of bodies in front. The goal was Niederreiter’s second in his past three games and came amid a demotion to the fourth line.
Before the second expired, the Kings tied it.
After Stalock — making his ninth start of the season — knocked down a Dustin Brown shot, winger Ilya Kovalchuk buried the rebound at 16:03.
But instead of shrinking like it had in previous games when it needed a heavy response after falling behind to the Flyers and the Red Wings — two teams near the bottom of the standings — the Wild continued to test Quick.
And it was rewarded when defenseman Ryan Suter’s heave at the net caromed in off center Eric Staal’s shin pad at 7:13.
“That’s how you were going to beat [Quick] when he was in that zone,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
The goal nixed Staal’s nine-game goal drought — his longest goalless skid since Jan. 21-Feb. 16, 2017.
“We’ll take it, and hopefully that can kick-start me in the right direction,” Staal said.
With 2:30 remaining, the Kings evened the score when center Jeff Carter directed in a puck as he was crashing the crease.
Despite receiving a power play in overtime, the Wild couldn’t cash in; it finished 0-for-2 with the man advantage, while the Kings were 0-for-1.
That set the stage for a shootout that featured three misses for the Kings, a fitting ending for Stalock since his puck-moving helped the team transition out of its zone all night — even if it did also create a few close calls with the net empty.
“I felt strong all night,” said Stalock, who made 31 saves. “I was square to the puck. It shows. It’s a back-to-back. Not a ton of Grade As. This team loves to get the puck to the middle of the net, and there weren’t many chances in the middle of the ice. We did a great job with that.”
This effort capped off a three-game sweep for the Wild over the Kings and improved the group to 5-3 in the second half of a back-to-back.
“Nice job by the guys to stick with it and find a way in the shootout,” Staal said, “and we’ll just try to build on this.”