Starting with 13 of 18 games on the road, the Minnesota Wild know they have to make their early home dates count. On Saturday night, they gave their fans plenty of reasons to cheer.
Eric Staal scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period, Alex Stalock stopped 30 shots, and the Wild beat the Kings 5-1.
Gerald Mayhew, Joel Eriksson Ek, Mikko Koivu and Jared Spurgeon also scored for Minnesota (4-7-0), which has won three of four after beginning the year 1-6.
Ben Hutton scored and Jonathan Quick made 22 saves for the Kings (4-7-0) who have lost two straight.
The Wild ran their home record to 3-1, one season after suffering a franchise-worst 18 home losses, an uncharacteristic development for a team that has a reputation for being tough at home.
“We didn’t give the fans what they deserved last year at home,” said Minnesota defenseman Matt Dumba, who had two assists. “We kind of butchered that. We have to get them back on our side here.”
The Wild have already played seven of 11 games on the road, and they play six of their next seven away from home as well. Stalock says that puts even more emphasis on the few home games they have this early in the season.
“We need to win games at home right now because we know our schedule — it’s road-dominant,” said Stalock, who filled in for injured starter Devan Dubnyk for the second straight game. “We need to make it really hard to come in here and even get one point out of us.”
With the game tied at 1, Staal took a pass from Jason Zucker at the blue line, skated in alone on Quick’s left and beat him over his far shoulder for his third goal of the season at 17:04 of the second.
Minnesota put it away with a three-goal flurry in the third as the Kings defense began to falter.
“When you start to press and you get frustrated, you work your way out of structure,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “You could see the mistakes at 3-1, especially at 4-1 (we) started to leak. We were lucky we didn’t give up six.”
The Wild took a 1-0 lead on Mayhew’s second goal of the season at 5:50 of the first period. The Kings evened the score early in the second when Hutton got his first goal as a King on a one-timer from the high slot.
That was all the Kings would get against Stalock, who bounced back after giving up four goals in a loss at Nashville on Thursday.
“He kept us in when we needed to be kept in,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He wasn’t happy with his game in Nashville, and he comes right back and you could tell he was on point in everything today.”
Less than a minute after Hutton’s goal, Stalock made an acrobatic save to stop Jeff Carter on a two-on-one to keep the game tied.
“They had a great chance, and Alex shut the door at that point,” Boudreau said. “That was a huge, huge play for us.”
The Kings outshot the Wild 14-5 in the second, but Minnesota killed off consecutive penalties before taking a 2-1 lead late in the period on Staal’s goal.
The Wild expanded their lead in the opening moments of the third period when Quick couldn’t control the rebound of Dumba’s shot and Eriksson Ek jammed it home.
Goals by Koivu and Spurgeon sealed it on a night when 11 Minnesota players found the scoring sheet.
Now the Wild face one more extended road stretch before they can catch their breath and assess the first quarter of the season.
“If after 18 (games) we can be 9-9 or better, that would be a real feather in our cap I think,” Boudreau said.
NOTES: The Kings are 0-6 when trailing after two periods and have given up at least five goals in five of 11 games this season. Both teams ranked in the bottom third of the NHL on the power play and the penalty kill going into the game. Both power-play units went 0 for 3. The Wild activated Eriksson Ek from the injured list. To make room for him on the roster, C Gabriel Doumont was returned to Iowa of the AHL. Dubnyk and F Jordan Greenway each missed a second straight game with upper-body injuries.
UP NEXT: The Kings are at Chicago on Sunday. The Wild visit Dallas on Tuesday.