Wild pull Marc-Andre Fleury early, suffer 7-6 loss to Kings late
It marked the second time in as many games that the Wild allowed seven goals to an opponent
ST. PAUL — Wild coach Dean Evason had only pulled his goaltender once in his NHL coaching career. Yet with the Wild in need of a spark on Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center, Evason decided to bench future hall of famer Marc-Andre Fleury in favor of backup Filip Gustavsson.
It didn’t matter.
Whether it was Fleury or Gustavsson between the pipes for the Wild, the Los Angeles Kings managed to find the back of the net with relative ease.
The result? A 7-6 loss for the Wild as they dropped to 0-2-0 this season.
After what Evason dubbed a “horrendous” showing in the season opener — a 7-3 loss to the New York Rangers on home ice — the Wild were equally as bad against the Kings.
The unraveling started in the first period as the Kings got a goal from winger Adrian Kempe to go up 1-0, a goal from winger Gabe Vilardi to make it 2-0 and a goal from defenseman Drew Doughty to stretch the lead to 3-0.
That prompted Evason to call a timeout during which he opted not to say a word on the Wild. Instead, captain Jared Spurgeon huddled the group and sent a clear message.
Fittingly, Middleton scored to make it 3-1 a couple of minutes later with a slap shot from the point. The comeback continued a few minutes later as Marcus Foligno scored while falling down to make it 3-2.
With the Wild suddenly on the verge of clawing all the way back, Fleury allowed a backbreaking goal to winger Alex Iafallo as the Kings went back in front 4-2. In the immediate aftermath, Fleury skated away from his crease and slammed his stick into the glass in frustration.
When the Wild emerged for the second period, Gustavsson, not Fleury, led the team out onto the ice. After a big save by Gustavsson in the early stages, Joel Eriksson Ek rewarded his goaltender on the power play to make it 4-3.
Unfortunately for the Wild, they couldn’t build on the momentum, as familiar face Kevin Fiala sucked the life of the lamp for the Kings midway through the second period to make it 5-3. Kirill Kaprizov made it 5-4 with a snipe a few minutes later, only for defenseman Matt Roy to push the lead back to 6-4 in favor of the Kings.
As the clock ticked away in the third period, Mats Zuccarello cut the deficit to 6-5 on the power play, then Sam Steel miraculously tied the game at 6-6 amid a mad scramble in front.
The time game lasted exactly 31 seconds before Kempe slithered his way into the slot and ripped a shot past Gustavsson to put the back in front 7-6. That held up as the final score.
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