Wild use early goals to beat Kings 3-1 for 5th straight win
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Wild blitzed the Los Angeles Kings with three goals in a span of just over three minutes in the first period and held on to win 3-1 on Friday night for their fifth straight victory.
Kirill Kaprizov, Nick Bjugstad and Joel Eriksson Ek scored for the Wild, who ended the Kings’ six-game winning streak. Minnesota’s last loss was to the Kings in Los Angeles on Feb. 16. That was Minnesota’s first game back after a two-week layoff due to COVID-19 protocols.
Cam Talbot stopped 27 shots for the Wild, holding the Kings scoreless until Jeff Carter’s goal late in the third period in his first action since Feb. 2.
“It’s a long time to be out,” said Bjugstad, who along with Talbot was one of 15 Wild players who were sidelined with the coronavirus. “Coming back from COVID those first few games are tough. And he came out with lots of energy and lots of confidence.”
Of course, it never hurts when your teammates give you a three-goal lead in the first period.
“It kind of calms you down and takes a little pressure off you to make that next save,” Talbot acknowledged. “I was just trying to go out there, stay focused, put pucks where I want to put them, eat pucks when I could — just try to play as calm as possible and tried to make less work for myself in my first game back.”
Jonathan Quick made 27 saves for the Kings, who were done in by the Wild’s three goals in a 3:03 span.
Minnesota struck first on Kaprizov’s fifth of the year, a sprawling wrap-around goal at 12:33.
Bjugstad doubled the Wild’s lead less than two minutes later after Quick misplayed a puck off the backboards. The carom rolled out to Bjugstad alone in the slot, and he buried a backhander for his 100th career goal.
Barely another minute had elapsed when Eriksson Ek slammed home his own rebound for his team-leading seventh of the season and a 3-0 Wild lead.
Carter spoiled the shutout when he crashed the net on a 3-on-2 and muscled the puck past Talbot for his fourth of the year.
The Wild were playing their first home game since Jan. 31. After their season resumed, they played five straight games on the road before returning home for a pair of games against the Kings.
The teams square off again in Minnesota on Saturday night. The Kings hope they can build on the improvements they made after their disastrous start on Friday.
“The last two periods (were) better,” Los Angeles center Anze Kopitar said. “Still not up to our standards, but we stopped the bleeding I guess a little bit. Tomorrow’s a new game and we’re going to have to be much better than we were tonight.”
Kaprizov has been one of the biggest stories of the season for the Wild, whose fans have been watching videos of his flashy play since the team drafted him out of Russia in 2015. His highlight-reel goal that opened the scoring Friday should only add to the fans’ excitement.
With defenseman Drew Doughty hounding him as he worked behind the Kings net, Kaprizov gained control of the puck near the bottom of the left faceoff circle. His first shot was kicked aside by Quick at the left post, but the puck trickled behind the net, where Kaprizov picked it up.
Then, as Doughty dragged him to the ice, Kaprizov muscled his way around the other side of the net and tucked the puck inside the right post.
The 23-year-old left wing leads NHL rookies with 16 points.
“If he isn’t the top rookie in the league, he’s got to be one of the top two or three,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “This is game six or seven against him already and every night he’s gotten better.”
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By PATRICK DONNELLY