Erik Haula and Jason Pominville scored for Minnesota and assisted on the other’s first-period goal, fueling the Wild for a 6-3 victory over Los Angeles that triggered an early exit for Kings goalie Jeff Zatkoff on Tuesday night.
After Charlie Coyle, Mikko Koivu and Teemu Pulkkinen tacked on scores for the Wild, Kings coach Darryl Sutter pulled Zatkoff for Peter Budaj during the second intermission. Zatkoff stopped 11 shots, taking his third straight loss since replacing star Jonathan Quick just 20 minutes into the season opener last week.
Tanner Pearson had two goals, both assisted by Jeff Carter, and Anze Kopitar also scored in the third period for the Kings, but Jared Spurgeon’s end-to-end empty-net fling from the far corner put the bow on a banner night for the Wild.
Pearson’s pivoting shot from behind the right circle slid underneath Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper’s glove just 50 seconds into the game, but the Wild snapped back with a breakaway goal by Haula from the left wing that sneaked between Zatkoff’s pads a mere 46 seconds later.
With Haula centering Pominville and Nino Niederreiter on the third line, new Wild coach Bruce Boudreau has a bounty of speed and skill at his disposal as the team begins to adapt to his personality and style.
Kuemper, in his first start of the season, was a little lucky to not wind up with the same fate as Zatkoff. Three shots by the Kings hit the pipes in the first period. He finished with 27 saves.
The Wild, whose perennially effective penalty kill units fell to fourth-worst in the NHL last season with a stoppage rate of 77.9 percent, denied all five power plays for the Kings including 49 seconds of a 5-on-3 situation. The Wild finished the game as one of three remaining teams in the league without a power-play goal against them yet this season, with 11 opportunities.
The Kings couldn’t have started the season in worse fashion, with Quick out indefinitely with a lower-body injury. After winning the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014, the Kings missed the postseason in 2015 and won only one playoff game last spring while going out with a whimper in their first-round loss to San Jose.
Before Quick was hurt, the Kings were already down one of their top six forwards with a broken right foot for Marian Gaborik in the World Cup of Hockey likely sidelining him until late November. The 34-year-old, who last skated for Minnesota eight seasons ago, is still the Wild’s all-time leading scorer with 219 goals. Gaborik was replaced in the lineup by Devin Setoguchi, another former Wild player albeit only briefly from 2011-13.
NOTES: The Wild are 13-4-4 in their last 21 home games against the Kings. … Pominville has four goals and 10 assists in 17 career games against the Kings. He didn’t score his first goal last season until his 22nd game, on Nov. 28 against Dallas.
Los Angeles stays on the road for a visit to Dallas on Thursday night.
Minnesota remains at home to play Toronto on Thursday night.
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