Officially, Wild backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper got the first star of last night’s Wild victory over the LA Kings, with Wild wing Nino Niederreiter getting the game’s second star. In reality, they both should’ve shared star of the game billing because they were the reason the Wild won.
Kuemper stopped 39 of the 40 shots he faced in regulation and overtime before shutting out the Kings in the shootout. After the Kings scored their only goal of the night, Nino Niederreiter tied the game with a pretty goal from Jason Pominville and Mikhael Granlund:
Kumper shut the Kings out the rest of the way, showing supreme confidence in the shootout while stopping the Kings’ 4 shooters cold. Jonathan Quick was magnificent between the pipes for LA, too. Unfortunately for the Kings, he just couldn’t stop Niederreiter when it mattered most.
Niederreiter’s game-winning goal in the shootout was magnificent, too. Niederreiter brought the puck in methodically before forcing Quick to commit one way or the other. When Quick committed, Niederreiter shifted the puck to his forehand before lifting the puck into the empty net. Quick knew he was beat as he desperately flailed in his attempt to stop Niederreiter’s shot.
While the Kings outshot the Wild, the Wild played a physical, fast-paced game. Mainly relying on totally restructured forward lines thanks to injuries to Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu. Losing the team’s 2 leaders for extended periods of time simultaneously might’ve given the Wild an excuse to collapse.
To their credit, the Wild instead played hard though they were clearly outmanned. Getting outshot 30-9 through the first 2 periods isn’t the ideal recipe for winning on the road against a top opponent. To their credit, though, the Wild competed with the Kings for every loose puck, whether the puck was in their zone, at center ice or in their offensive zone.
Finally, it needs to be highlighted that the Wild used their young legs and athleticism to keep the pressure on Quick and the Kings. What they lacked in offensive talent, they made up for with physical play, aggressiveness and fantastic goaltending. Last night, that was the perfect recipe for a Wild win.