ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored the winning goal in the shootout and Niklas Backstrom made 27 saves in regulation to lift the Minnesota Wild to a 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night.
Bouchard beat Jonathan Bernier with a nifty little backhand through the five-hole and Backstrom stopped Anze Kopitar, Jack Johnson and Dustin Brown for his first shootout victory in his last nine opportunities.
Bernier made 27 saves in regulation for the Kings, who had their three-game winning streak snapped in the first of a 10-game road trip.
Backstrom was rarely challenged during his third shutout of the season, but was superb in the shootout. He poke checked the puck off the stick of Kopitar to start the shootout, then made a sensational sprawling kick save with his right skate on a brilliant move from Johnson. He capped it off with a blocker save against Brown.
Bernier earned his first shutout of the season and stopped Marty Havlat to start the shootout before Bouchard beat him.
Both teams looked rusty in their first game back from the six-day All-Star break.
The lack of offense should come as no surprise for two teams who have struggled on that end of the ice all season. The Wild started the night tied for the second-fewest goals in the West while only four teams had scored fewer goals than Los Angeles.
After a slow start to the season led to questions about coach Todd Richards’ job security, the Wild have creeped back into the Western Conference playoff hunt. They have won five of their last six games, and the victory over the Kings put them a leg up on Los Angeles in the air-tight Western race.
They’ve done most of their damage on the road, though, with a 12-11-2 mark at home.
The Kings entered Xcel Energy Center right on Minnesota’s heels, tied with 55 points but one spot back in 11th place.
They were one of the more disappointing teams in the first half of the season, unable to capitalize on the momentum gained from their first trip to the playoffs since 2002. Los Angeles tied a franchise record with 46 victories last season.
But the Kings lost 10 of 12 home games during a horrible skid that started at the end of December and dragged well into January before finally showing signs of steadying themselves with a three-game winning streak going into the All-Star break.
With the Grammy Awards and the NBA All-Star game scheduled for Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Kings will spend the next three weeks criss-crossing North America in a trip that could define their season.
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NOTES: Wild LW Andrew Brunette played in his 1,000th career game. Since 1998, no player has played in more games than the Wild’s beloved “Bruno.” He received a standing ovation in the first period. … Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was in attendance. He planned to play goalie in an instructional segment on Fox Sports North’s postgame show. … The Wild played their first 0-0 regulation home game since March 27, 2007.
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