LOS ANGELES (AP) — The five-game losing streak, the January power-play drought and the creeping sense of frustration all vanished in one cathartic evening for the Minnesota Wild.
Zach Parise scored Minnesota’s first power-play goal in January, Darcy Kuemper made 32 saves in his seventh career shutout and the Wild snapped their longest skid of the season with a 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.
Erik Haula added a short-handed goal for the Wild, who pulled out of their tailspin with a gritty effort against the Pacific Division leaders on the third stop of their four-game road trip.
“It tells us a lot about ourselves to play like that in the building of a team that’s having the kind of season that they’re having,” Kuemper said after his second shutout of the season. “We’ve been playing better for a while. Tonight, we just got rewarded for it.”
Charlie Coyle scored on a breakaway during a solid offensive performance by a team that had scored just one goal in its previous nine periods, but Minnesota thrived with big performances on special teams.
Parise started the scoring off a pass from Thomas Vanek, ending the Wild’s 0-for-25 drought across 12 games since Dec. 28 on the power play. Los Angeles then gave up a 2-on-1 short-handed rush early in the third, and Haula converted Mikko Koivu’s pass.
“I think we really needed (the win) for our own psyche,” Parise said. “It’s been getting tough lately. Losing a lot of games and not producing on offense, it was frustrating. The frustration was creeping in.”
Jonathan Quick stopped 25 shots for the Kings, who lost in regulation for just the third time in 13 games since Christmas. Los Angeles was shut out for only the third time this season, just the second in 43 games since opening week.
Jordan Nolan had the Kings’ best scoring chance late in the second, but Kuemper stopped him at point-blank range. Kuemper looked sharp in his first victory and second appearance for the Wild since Dec. 22.
“Usually when you have success, you win the special teams battle for sure,” Kings defenseman Luke Schenn said. “But we weren’t good enough at all. You can’t be giving up special teams goals like that. It sucked the life out of us.”
Minnesota forward Jarret Stoll played at Staples Center for the first time since the two-time Stanley Cup champion left the Kings as a free agent last summer. The Kings honored him with a video tribute during a first-period break, and Los Angeles fans rose for a standing ovation while Stoll waved from the faceoff circle.
“It was awesome,” Stoll said. “Obviously, chills throughout your body. I just wanted to end it as quickly as possible. I would have gotten emotional, or started to.”
Stoll was a dependable two-way center and a Kings leader, but his offensive production declined sharply before his departure, and Los Angeles didn’t re-sign him after he was arrested and eventually charged with two misdemeanors relating to alleged drug possession in Las Vegas shortly after the Kings’ season ended last April.
He struggled with the New York Rangers this year before getting waived and catching on with the Wild, where his teammates and coaches praise his veteran work ethic and leadership.
“You can tell how much the fans appreciated him here and how big a part of the team he was,” Parise said. “We know how great of a guy he is already.”
NOTES: Minnesota had been 1 for 33 on the power play over the past five weeks. … F Jordan Schroeder played for Minnesota for the first time since Nov. 28 after getting recalled from Iowa (AHL) earlier in the day. F Justin Fontaine was scratched. … Kings D Christian Ehrhoff was scratched for the third straight game.
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