Los Angeles Hockey: Niklas Backstrom

Kings: Late lead gets away in shootout loss vs. Wild

March, 31, 2012
Minnesota Wild 4, Kings 3 (SO)

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: Considering the situation -- the second road game in two nights at the back end of a four-game road trip -- the Kings would normally be satisfied escaping with a point Saturday night in St. Paul, Minn. But they were in great position to steal another against the Wild, holding a 3-2 lead with just over nine minutes remaining at Xcel Energy Center before unraveling down the stretch.

THE STAT: After finishing 10-2 in shootouts a year ago, the Kings fell to 6-8 this season. Jonathan Bernier, who started in goal for just the 14th time this season, failed to stop a shot in the shootout, falling to 1-3 in his career in the tiebreaker. Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom, meanwhile, improved to 17-29. If the Kings don’t make the playoffs, that’s one stat that will haunt them during the offseason.

TURNING POINT: Just as it appeared the Kings were on the verge of wrapping up their final multi-game road trip with three straight wins, Justin Falk skated straight at Kings rookie defenseman Slava Voynov, cut into the middle and dumped the puck off to Jason Zucker. He took a shot toward the net and the puck glanced off the left skate of Erik Christensen, redirecting it past Bernier. Christensen appeared to make a slight kicking motion, but it was unclear if the skate of Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell had bumped into Christensen’s and caused the motion. Regardless, the goal stood, tying the score, 3-3. The Kings killed off a four-minute power play in the final minutes of regulation, then failed to score on a power play of their own that extended into overtime. Later in the overtime, Minnesota forward Devin Setoguchi hit the post on a penalty shot, leaving the game to be decided in the shootout.

HOT: A healthy scratch in 12 of the previous 13 games before getting a chance to play Friday in Edmonton following the ankle injury to Jeff Carter, forward Brad Richardson scored two goals for the Kings, the last giving them a 3-2 lead 57 seconds into the second period. It appeared that might hold up as the game winner until Christensen’s goal.

NOT: The Kings have been brutal in the opening minutes the last two games. They allowed the Oilers to tie the score in the second minute Friday night, then gave up a goal on the first shot against the Wild, just 42 seconds into the game. After the Kings tied the score about three minutes later on Richardson’s first goal, the Wild needed just 17 seconds to take back the lead.

GOOD MOVE: The Kings came back to tie the score for a second time in the opening period, 2-2, on their second power-play goal in two games. Mike Richards sent a blast at Backstrom, who left a juicy rebound for Dustin Brown to shoot into the net with 4:29 left in the opening period. Anze Kopitar picked up one of his three assists on the play, and Brown also finished with a three-point night.

BAD MOVE: Under normal circumstances, coach Darryl Sutter’s decision to start Bernier would have made perfect sense. The Wild passed up the Kings as the lowest-scoring team in the NHL this month, Bernier shut out Minnesota, 4-0, on Feb. 28 at Xcel Energy Center, and the Kings had played the night before in Edmonton. But with just four games remaining in the regular season and the Kings in a mad scramble for one of the final three playoff spots, the safest move would’ve been to start Jonathan Quick, who had allowed just two goals in his last three starts, all on the current road trip. At least Quick should be fresh for Monday’s huge game against the visiting Oilers.

NOTABLE: The Wild have now won six times when trailing heading into the final period, tied for fourth-most in the NHL. The Kings have won just once this season when trailing after two periods, tied for last in the league.

UP NEXT: Monday vs. the Edmonton Oilers at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

Kings: Jonathan Bernier steps in and shuts out Wild

February, 29, 2012
Kings 4, Minnesota Wild 0

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: Kings back-up goalie Jonathan Bernier made his first start in three weeks and used the time wisely, stopping 26 shots to earn his first shutout of the season and fifth of his career in the victory at XCel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

THE STAT: With 18 games remaining, the Kings remain in 10th-place in the Western Conference standings but now have the same number of points (70) as eighth-place Dallas and ninth-place Colorado.

TURNING POINT: The Kings scored 44 seconds into the game on their first shot on net. Rookie defenseman Slava Voynov took a shot from the point and it deflected off Justin Williams and through the legs of Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom. They scored their second goal at the 9:39 mark of the opening period when Williams won the puck on the forecheck behind the Wild net. The puck came out to Anze Kopitar who spotted Dwight King in front of the crease and he one-timed it past Backstrom for a 2-0 lead on the Kings' fourth shot on goal.

HOT: Kings captain Dustin Brown continues to elevate his game ever since he was mentioned in trade talks last week. With two assists against the Wild, he has five goals and four assists in the last five games.

NOT: Kings second-year forward Kyle Clifford was a healthy scratch for the first time since early in his rookie year last season. Clifford managed one point in February, a goal Feb. 7 in a 3-1 victory at Tampa Bay. Probably more discouraging is his minus-2 rating for the month, which dropped him to minus-7 for the season.

GOOD MOVE: Brown’s second assist came on a beautiful pass from the left side of the net, past a Minnesota defenseman and onto the tape of Kopitar, who scored from two feet away for a 3-0 lead.

BAD MOVE: Nursing a four-goal lead in the third period of a must-win game, the Kings got a little sloppy with their sticks, getting called for hooking and slashing penalties in the final eight minutes, which put the Wild on the power play and gave them a chance to get back into the game.

NOTABLE: The Kings took a season-low 15 shots on goal but are now 3-1 when taking 20 or less … Kings forward Jeff Carter, acquired in a trade with the Blue Jackets last week, went his third straight game without a point for the Kings … L.A. finished 5-7-2 in February.

NEXT UP: Saturday vs. the Ducks at Staples Center.

Kings: Simmonds comes through on power play for 1-0 lead

February, 24, 2011
After the first period:

Kings 1, Minnesota Wild 0

The good: The Kings scored on their first power play in the last five periods. Brent Burns went off for hooking with 8:27 left in the period and the Kings proceeded to hold possession in their offensive zone for the first 1:50. Dustin Brown jarred the puck loose from Marek Zidlicky along the end boards. Jack Johnson collected it and passed it out front to Wayne Simmonds, who beat goalie Niklas Backstrom from between the hash marks with his team’s sixth shot on goal on the power play. Simmonds’ joined the double-digit club with his 10th goal of the season. Minnesota was limited to six shots on goal, none for nearly a 10-minute stretch that included a power play, making for a pretty easy 20 minutes for back-up goalie Jonathan Bernier.

The bad: The Wild went on their second power play after Justin Williams was called for a phantom tripping penalty while cutting between two defenders with the puck. Not sure why he’d want to trip someone in that situation, as he was readying to score a goal.

The in between: Dallas and Chicago already won tonight, so six teams currently have 70 points, including the Kings and Wild, occupying fifth through 10th place. That smoke coming from your computer is probably the electronic NHL tiebreaker overheating.