LOS ANGELES – The Wild’s knack for hitting the reset button was pushed to the back burner as the victories piled up in recent weeks, but the time has come to dust off that trait.
A lopsided special-teams battle combined with a clunky start extinguished the Wild’s season-high eight-game win streak on Saturday in a 2-1 letdown to the Kings in front of 15,897 at Staples Center. It was the team’s first loss since Nov. 21.
“We forget about it,” Marcus Foligno said. “We had one game tonight, and we lost it. That’s the mentality it has to be.”
One more victory and the Wild would have tied for the second longest win streak in team history and tied the Hurricanes for the longest in the NHL this season.
Instead, it suffered just its seventh regulation-time loss and failed to reclaim first place in the NHL. Its 19 wins and 39 points, however, remain tops in the Central Division.
The Wild is back in action on Sunday, concluding this four-game road trip at Vegas.
“It’s not the end of the world,” said goalie Kaapo Kahkonen, who made 35 saves in a strong spot start. “We lost one game here. It’s good the next game is [Sunday] night, and we get right back at it.”
Los Angeles’ Brendan Lemieux pushed the Kings past the Wild in the third period, converting on a loose puck in front at 9 minutes, 15 seconds in his first game back after a five-game suspension for biting the Senators’ Brady Tkachuk.
This was the Wild’s first loss this season when tied after two periods (6-1).
Although the Kings didn’t grab the lead until the final period, the Wild looked off from the get-go.
The team committed three penalties in the first period and although the Kings didn’t take advantage, they did generate pressure and ended up throwing 13 pucks on net in the period where Kahkonen was appearing in place of Cam Talbot.
“I don’t think our minds were quite there tonight early,” coach Dean Evason said, “and I think the frustration level built a little bit.”
This parade to the penalty box continued in the second, and that’s when Los Angeles almost broke the stalemate.
Wild penalty kills were hemmed in their own zone as the Kings played keep-away, a game that continued as Dmitry Kulikov snapped his stick on a clearing attempt.
Even after Alex Goligoski rejoined the action from the penalty box, giving the Wild three defenseman on the ice, the team struggled to win back possession. Jon Merrill ended up playing 3:17 before making it to the Wild bench for a change.
“Spent too much time in our end, for sure,” Merrill said.
The Wild finished 5-for-5 on the penalty kill, but the effort it took to fend off Los Angeles was draining.
“Six minutes out 20 in your zone is tough,” Foligno said. “We were in our zone pretty much for the full two minutes, too. So, it’s grueling. It’s taxing. You never want to do that to yourselves when you’re playing that stop-and-start game early.”
Still, the team’s power play served up the eventual icebreaker.
Foligno tipped a shot at 13:11 from Matt Dumba, who was back in the lineup after missing Thursday’s game at San Jose with a non-COVID illness. The Wild was still down a regular defenseman, though, as Jonas Brodin was out with an upper-body injury. Brodin is “very doubtful” to play Sunday, Evason said.
Foligno’s goal was his 12th of the season, one behind Ryan Hartman’s team-leading 13 and one shy of his career high from 2016-17 with Buffalo.
This was also a season-high fourth straight game that featured a Wild power play goal. Ten of the team’s 15 power play goals have come on the road, including six in the last six road contests. The team blanked on its only other chance, with Evason making note of the disparity in opportunities and pointing out a non-call against Hartman late in the third period.
“It’s a frustrating night,” Evason said. “We got behind with some penalties, and we never got any back. If you’re going to call penalties, keep the standard the same and make the calls. It doesn’t matter what time of the game is. You gotta make that call.”
Just 1:18 after Foligno scored, the Kings tied the game when Phillip Danault put back his own rebound after Kahkonen made an impressive pad stop on the first attempt.
Kahkonen also had another key stop on Los Angeles captain Anze Kopitar before the second wrapped up. He’s now 4-2-1 on the season.
At the other end, Jonathan Quick had 30 saves, including a handful in the waning seconds as the Wild vied for the game-tying goal.
The team didn’t capitalize on that push, but it won’t have to wait long to resume it.
“We expect tomorrow night just to really come together, show our character and make sure we get a win on this road trip,” Foligno said.