The Kings (20-16-4) fought back from an early deficit to defeat the Minnesota Wild (24-10-4), 4-3, at the Staples Center on Saturday afternoon. Below is what we learned from the game.
Tanner Pearson, like the Kings, likes the big moment
Pearson shines the brightest when the ice opens up in three-on-three overtime, as evidenced by his second game-winner in three games.
Pearson dashed toward the net and deflected an Alec Martinez pass by Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper in this one. The goal came 3 minutes and 32 seconds into the extra period and shortly after the Kings allowed Zach Parise to tie the game with 42.1 seconds left in regulation.
“[Pearson’s] been putting the puck in the net for us, and these days we need that,” said center Jeff Carter, who notched three points in the win. “He’s the guy that when he’s going and he’s getting looks to the net, he can put them in.
“… He’s a really good skater and he can kind of get a jump on guys and find that open ice. Usually when he gets the chance he can put them in.”
Carter assisted on Pearson’s overtime goal in San Jose on Tuesday, and Saturday’s winner gave Pearson 11 goals on the season. It also continued Martinez’s strong three-on-three play as the defenseman scored two overtime goals earlier in the year. With the win over the Wild, the Kings improved to 8-1 in overtime decisions.
“Puck possession. It’s crucial with our team,” defenseman Jake Muzzin said of the Kings’ success in overtime. “We have good gaps in neutral, quick in our d-zone, we have the puck on our stick a lot and we control the game that way. It carries into overtime as well.”
A streaking Carter
There were two prevalent streaks for Carter on Saturday afternoon.
The first was a physical streak when Carter glided down the right side of the ice before beating Kuemper for the game’s first goal. The second was a statistical streak: By assisting on Muzzin’s power-play goal early in the third period, Carter had been involved in the Kings’ last six goals. That included the game winner against the Sharks on New Year’s Eve, a goal and an assist in Tuesday’s win at San Jose, and then a goal and two assists in regulation against the Wild.
Carter, who leads the Kings with 22 goals on the season, was not involved in Pearson’s overtime winner. He and his teammates were likely not worried about that.
“At least you asked me about MVP of the team, not All-Stars,” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said of Carter after the game. “But he’s both.”
The Kings were struggling on offense heading into the game — most notably in a 4-0 loss to the Red Wings on Thursday — and Sutter shook up his lineup against the Wild.
Sutter slid Trevor Lewis next to Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, which moved Dustin Brown to a line with Nic Dowd and Kyle Clifford. The lines of Pearson-Carter-Devin Setoguchi and Dwight King-Nick Shore-Jordan Nolan mostly went touched (aside from Brown mixing in with Carter and Pearson on a handful of shifts).
Gaborik scored his second goal of the season, and the offense was otherwise paced by Carter.
There was also a slight tweak to the defensive pairings as Sutter scratched Kevin Gravel and played veteran Matt Greene. Greene had not played since Dec. 28 and was mainly paired with Brayden McNabb in his 10 minutes and 30 seconds of ice time.
Follow Jesse Doughert on Twitter @dougherty_jesse