Wild coach Dean Evason watched the play from every angle available to him and still couldn't identify when the Kings' goal turned legal.
After a puck punted ahead by Pierre-Luc Dubois skidded five-hole on goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in the first period, the NHL ruled Dubois' stick got a piece of the shot before it rolled into the net to negate the illegal kick.
"There's no touch," Evason said. "It certainly didn't seem like it unless they have another angle. We don't see a touch."
The Wild had plenty of time to overcome the adversity but since they didn't and instead stumbled into a two-goal, 12-second spiral that ultimately sunk them into a 7-3 meltdown on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center, the controversial call emerged as the beginning of the end for the Wild.
"We got frustrated with some stuff," Evason said, "and we couldn't pull ourselves out of it."
Dubois, off assists from former Wild forward Kevin Fiala, became the fastest player to score twice against the Wild, as he served up the eventual game-winner after his video-confirmed goal counted with 58 seconds left in the first.
"It shouldn't have come to that," said Connor Dewar, who was battling with Dubois for the puck before the kick. "I should have just won that race."
After the next faceoff, Fiala intercepted a Fleury clearing attempt and his throw to the middle bounced off Ryan Hartman and right to Dubois for the deposit behind Fleury with 46 seconds to go.
"I probably did a bad play," said Fleury, who was making consecutive starts and finished with 20 saves.
"I tried to rim it to a winger, but their guy picked it up and then scramble in front."
Add in the Vladislav Gavrikov backhander through traffic at 15:46, and Los Angeles flipped a one-goal deficit into a two-goal cushion in a breezy 3:28.
Overall, the four goals are the most given up by the Wild in a period this season.
"We've got to be better at being resilient and not letting that get to us," Evason said.
The Kings tacked on a fifth goal, from Trevor Moore, 10:13 into the third before Joel Eriksson Ek one-timed in a Marcus Johansson pass at 14:38. Adrian Kempe (2:19 to go) and Blake Lizotte (1:08 left while shorthanded) then drained empty-netters.
"We've got to find a better way to get back after it," Evason said. "We didn't give up a goal in the second, so it wasn't like we completely imploded. But we didn't like our response, for sure."
What made the Wild's first period collapse even more jarring was that it came after the team had control.
They were trailing after just 2:39 when a Carl Grundstrom shot handcuffed Fleury.
But over the next 10-plus minutes, Los Angeles registered just one shot while the Wild amped up the pressure against their former netminder Cam Talbot, who made 29 saves in his first game against the Wild since the team traded him to Ottawa in 2022 for Filip Gustavsson.
Dewar pounced on a fortuitous bounce off the end boards into the slot for the equalizer at 6:21. By 8 minutes, the Wild led 2-1 on a Kirill Kaprizov deflection off a Jonas Brodin point shot — this after a tenacious cycle by Hartman and Mats Zuccarello.
These goals were the second in as many games for both Dewar and Kaprizov, and each came at 5-on-5 after the penalty kill and power play carried the Wild to a 5-2 victory at Montreal on Tuesday.
The Kings actually challenged Kaprizov's finish to check if the play was offside; it wasn't, and that gave the Wild the first of two power plays in the period. But after scoring three times vs. the Canadiens, the power play couldn't sustain that momentum and blanked on those two chances before another unsuccessful try in the second and one more in the third.
Los Angeles didn't receive a single power play.
"We shouldn't have to score five, six goals to win a game, though," Dewar said. "Kind of shot ourselves in the foot."