The Kings were not the team that played the previous night, on the East Coast. But they could have been mistaken for that in the first half of the game.
They couldn’t match the energy of the Minnesota Wild and performed, by their assessment, one of their worst second periods. In a recurring theme, only Jonathan Quick kept them relevant all Tuesday night in a rally-short effort that left them angered in a 3-2 shootout loss at Xcel Energy Center.
“We sure as hell got to be a lot more consistent than we’ve been, and we’ve got to figure that out,” defenseman Alec Martinez said.
The Kings took almost no consolation out of erasing deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 on goals by Ilya Kovalchuk and Jeff Carter, who crashed the net to tie it with 2 minutes 30 seconds left in regulation. Quick made 40 saves and helped the Kings kill a penalty in overtime before the Wild got the only goal in the shootout on Jason Zucker’s perfect backhand.
Keenly aware they were facing a tired opponent, the Kings couldn’t take advantage and dropped to 0-2-1 against Minnesota this season. The last time they played here, on Oct. 25, a 4-1 loss precluded the firing of coach John Stevens a week later.
Tuesday showed evidence that they’re still working out similar issues.
“Not only being consistent, not just period to period, but shift to shift,” winger Dustin Brown said. “Right now, I think, for our team, I think we have two or three good shifts in a row. Like I said, the second period was not very good for us at all.
“Part of it is inexperience and the little plays make a big difference, especially a team that plays a transition game like they do.”
Coach Willie Desjardins said before the game that his goalie plan is still heavily tilted toward Quick, who again proved why. He preserved a scoreless game by collecting the puck with his legs while prone just before it fully crossed the goal line on Ryan Suter’s shot off the post in the second period. Quick stopped 27 of 28 shots in the first 40 minutes.
“I thought Quickie got us that point,” Martinez said. “Without him in the net, it could have been 8-1. I don’t know. He stood on his head and he was the reason why we got the point.”
Kovalchuk salvaged a mediocre start for the Kings to tie it 1-1 at second intermission. He sneaked down to the slot on a rush and tapped in Brown’s rebound with nearly four minutes remaining in the second period to end a 10-game scoring drought.
Carter followed up a three-point game Saturday with his 10th goal of the season to equalize scores by Nino Niederreiter and Eric Staal, who ended 14- and nine-game scoring slumps, respectively.
Minnesota, hurting from consecutive losses to the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers, came out with purpose, in its second game in two nights. It broke through Quick halfway into the second period when Niederreiter curled to the top of the right circle and sent a shot through a congested lane that found the net.
“A point in this building is difficult,” Martinez said. “You always know that they’re going to be coming out hard and they’ve been struggling as of late …you knew they were going to bring it. I don’t think we did a good enough job. Our second period, I thought, was terrible.
“We just weren’t playing the right way. We did things the right way one time and we scored. For whatever reason, we’re getting away from playing the game the right way, making plays, making passes, supporting each other. It was just too much sloppy play.”