Wild coach Bruce Boudreau started to see red flags in the second period.
His team began to turn the puck over, again and again.
“That gave them a little life going into the third,” Boudreau said.
Mix that momentum with the Kings’ track record – they had the league’s best goal differential in the third entering the game at plus-23 – and it created a disastrous combination for the Wild, as the Kings scored four straight to pull away for a 5-2 comeback win Tuesday at Staples Center.
“When we get the lead, I don't know if we just sit back or we just kind of focus solely defensively,” center Charlie Coyle said. “I don't know. We have to find a way to keep pushing and playing our game, not let them come at us and sit back and wait for something to happen and just survive. We have to keep our foot on the pedal there, and I don't think we did that.”
A poor pinch by defenseman Matt Dumba started the scoring outburst for the Kings, as they capitalized on a two-on-one rush with winger Marian Gaborik finishing off a pass from captain Anze Kopitar to tie it at 2.
“It was a bad play,” Boudreau said. “He makes the play, and we're talking about just shooting the puck at the net and being simple. We try to make a sauce pass, and it doesn't work. Then coming back, instead of just coming back to the position, the defenseman goes to hit a guy and it's a two-on-one and probably a two-on-one against the two worst guys on the team to leave a two-on-one to.”
It was an unfortunate start to the Wild’s three-game road trip through California because much of the first two periods was textbook road hockey.
The team got the puck deep, cycled along the boards and frustrated the Kings by limiting the quality of their chances.
But a switch flipped in the third, and the Wild couldn’t maintain the strategy that had previously worked for it.
“We play a full 60 minutes,” winger Tyler Ennis said, “I think we can win.”
Here’s what else to watch for after the Wild’s loss to the Kings.
- Goalie Devan Dubnyk had helped keep the Kings off balance through the first two periods, but two unfortunate bounces stung him in the third.
His attempt to poke a pass out of the slot backfired, as the puck bounced off defenseman Jonas Brodin’s skate and over the goal line to put the Kings ahead for good. And the Kings’ fourth goal, a shot by Gaborik, deflected off Dumba’s stick before sailing into the net.
“It was a play that they didn't do anything,” Boudreau said, referring to the game-winner. “Sometimes they get to the inside of our guys and there's a battle and it hits our guy. This one if we hadn't touched the puck, it's going into the corner. To me, that's frustrating.”
- The third and fourth lines provided all of the Wild’s offense, as Coyle opened the scoring before Ennis put the team up 2-1.
“I thought it was (Matt) Cullen's best game in a long time and Ennis I thought played really well,” Boudreau said. “I think (Zack) Mitchell is a good player. He plays his position. He's not anything fancy. He just does the right thing.”
- This loss snapped a brief two-game win streak.
Only once this season has the Wild won more than two games in a row – Nov.9-16 when the team enjoyed a four-game win streak.
“We'll get it,” Coyle said. “We just have to stay positive. Sometimes that happens. We'll find it. We are a good team. We'll find it. We just have to watch some video and come back and learn from our mistakes and focus on the task at hand.”