The Wild were coming off a loss to San Jose and the Kings off a win against the Ducks, so you’d think the momentum would be in the Kings favor, right? To be fair it was, in the beginning. The Kings had 10 shots on goal to 2 10 minutes into the contest, but spoiler alert, only had 5 shots on goal in the first 17 minutes of the third period, so momentum was a funny thing. After a somber beginning, a tribute to more victims falling to gun violence, this time in the Kings backyard, the Kings lost no time getting game ready. They came out hard, fast, and in control. So when Jake Muzzin niftily slapped one past Devan Dubnyk’s glove shoulder 4:42 in, it wasn’t surprising. What was surprising was the number of high-grade chances they were getting, but just not past Dubnyk. Doughty. Kovalchuk. Kempe. Carter. Brown. All contributing Grade-A chances and skating circles around the Wild. But as happens when a goalie is bailing you out hard, the Wild weren’t about to let their netminder down. Surged by his performance and aided by an Alec Martinez penalty, they swarmed Campbell who inevitably couldn’t keep them all out. It took 10 minutes from Muzzin’s goal but it came, a wrister from Niederreiter a rookie could see coming – the Kings couldn’t clear and couldn’t clear and couldn’t clear, Campbell kept coming up with saves but with each one ended up just a little bit out of an ideal position and vulnerable. The Kings faltered; the goal seemed to shake them a little, especially after being unable to convert so many of their chances. After dominating the play for most of the first, they closed the period lackluster, making unforced errors and conceding control of the neutral zone, something they’d been so good at controlling for most of the period.

The second period conceded more ground to the Wild, who granted were 10th in the league going into the game and have a 6-3-1 record when their opponent scores first. It wasn’t ever going to be an easy game. But Carter taking a penalty less than 90 seconds into the second didn’t help, weak call or not. Campbell was being tested early, and often. He was making great saves and keeping the Kings in the game, but no one could crack Dubnyk, and the Wild were wearing our goalie down much more than the other way around. Sure enough, after almost 15 minutes of battling it out, Zach Parise broke through largely in part to Dion Phaneuf losing him. Given the quality of chances the Wild were getting compared to the Kings, it wasn’t unexpected. A brief respite from the onslaught, Chris Sutter was back at Staples Center, Dance Cam-ing it up, much to everyone’s delight. With 3:24 remaining in the second, and mere moments after Sutter danced his way back into our hearts (did he ever really leave? No, no he didn’t) Fantenberg drew a tripping penalty and the Kings had a power play to repair the damage and tie up the game. They didn’t. The power play, which had shown signs of resurgence with Dustin Brown’s re-emergence, was back to being lackluster and disappointing.

The third brought more of the same, being slightly outplayed – not enough to be embarrassing, but enough that the Kings couldn’t get enough going. 6:28 in Toffoli lost the puck in the offensive zone, and as everyone was so deep gave away a breakaway to Jason Zucker. Phaneuf needed to slash him to stop him from getting a good shot off, so back to the penalty kill went the Kings. They were losing steam, but didn’t give up. A power play 9:30 in gave them plenty of time to get one back, and perhaps force overtime at least, but again it was a wasted opportunity. Kopitar remained on the ice for 1:48 of it, despite a stoppage in play about halfway through. I understand the strategy – Kopitar/Brown/Kovalchuk have the best record in the league, or at least they did going into the game. For a 20 minute average on the power play, they score 9.5 goals. It’s impressive, to be sure, but double shifting their top unit just meant they were exhausted and couldn’t cobble together a very cohesive offense. As the game progressed, Campbell was tested again and again, with a post and a particularly impressive diving save keeping the Kings in the game, but even a power play that essentially lasted 2:30 (delayed call, the Kings maintained control for a good 30 seconds before the Wild could touch up) couldn’t get them past Dubnyk. It didn’t help that in those first 30 seconds they were relegated to the neutral zone by the Wild defense. An empty-net goal (hey why not make it 6-on-4 if you can?) with 2.9 seconds remaining would seal the Kings fate. Yes, Dubnyk is good, but the Kings need to bear down on the good chances they create for themselves when they can. They won’t come along as often as they did in the first, and they clearly regretted not being able to capitalize on more than one.

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