There was the chance to put (some) distance between themselves and the Calgary Flames and an opportunity to pull even, points-wise, with Vancouver, at least for a couple of hours.
So what did the Kings do against the Minnesota Wild?
Minnesota scored on its first shot of the game and led by two goals by the 13:39 mark. The Kings couldn’t recover from that early deficit and Minnesota won, 4-1, on Saturday night as Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 31 saves, handing the Kings their first loss in four games.
“We’ve got to start on time. It’s on us,” Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. “You can’t spot a team like that two goals. They start well in the building every time they come out. They’re a fast team. We should have been ready for it.”
The Wild, at least at the start, did not look like a team that played Friday night and won against Calgary here at Xcel Energy Center. Forward Nino Niederreiter and center Mikko Koivu each had two goals for the Wild, and Koivu added an assist.
Dwight King scored the lone goal for the Kings, his first since Feb. 14. The Kings were 0 for 3 on the power play.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter pulled starter Jonathan Quick after the first period, attempting to ignite the rest of the team, replacing him with Martin Jones for the final two periods. It was the first action for Jones since March 1 at Winnipeg when he also played in relief of Quick.
Just like that, the Wild moved out of the wild-card spot they’ve been occupying and took over third place in the Central Division, leading Chicago by a point. The Kings remain third in the Pacific Division and lost the chance to possibly make up ground on second-place Vancouver, which lost in overtime to Dallas later Saturday.
“It was a very poor start,” said Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr. “Pretty sloppy game by us. It’s difficult when you put yourself down, 2-0, especially against a goaltender playing as well as Dubnyk has been.
“We have a lot better game than that. Quite disappointing. It was a big game and they continue to get bigger as the regular season winds down.”
Having said that, the Kings had plenty of opportunities to tie after King cut Minnesota’s lead to 2-1 with his 11th goal of the season, at 3:20 of the second period.
Kings forward Tyler Toffoli was an offensive threat all night, and what looked like a near-certain goal on the power play was stopped by Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin with 2:47 remaining in the second. Toffoli had a shot at an open net but Brodin, somehow, got his stick on it. Later Toffoli took a penalty in the offensive zone for tripping, and the Wild’s Niederreiter capitalized on the power play, making it 3-1 at 16:57 of the third period.
“Brods saved me from one there,” Dubnyk said. “It’s perfect…. It was a wide-open net. It happens so fast. He [Toffoli] hammered it from in tight. It comes off my pads so hard, all I had a chance to do was to look over and think it was going in the net. Brods saved it for me.”
Sutter was unavailable for comment afterward. But after the morning skate, he addressed the lack of scoring in certain parts of the lineup.
“We still have a lot of guys who haven’t scored a goal since Jesus was a baby,” Sutter said.
King was not the only player in that category. Captain Dustin Brown’s scoring drought dates to Feb. 18. For King, it was his first goal in 20 games and getting assists on his goal were linemates Jeff Carter and Toffoli.
“It’s something that’s in the back of your mind,” King said. “When you get an opportunity to play more minutes with top guys, you’ve got to find ways to be productive.
“Like you said, it’s been a long time, so it’s nice to get that one. You try not to think of it, otherwise it would get old pretty quick every time you had a drought.”