ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With their hopes of a playoff berth hanging by a thread, the Minnesota Wild reeked of desperation heading into their meeting with the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. By the end of the evening, that desperation had produced a much more pleasant odor, as the Wild got a pair of quick-strike goals early and held on late to beat the Kings 2-1.
Charlie Coyle and Cal Clutterbuck scored 16 seconds apart in the first period as the Wild moved a step closer to their first playoff appearance since 2008, snapping a 0-4-1 streak at home. Minnesota still needs to win one of its final two games to lock up a playoff spot.
The Kings got a goal from Jeff Carter and 23 saves from Jonathan Bernier, but despite a decided advantage in shots on goal in the third period, could not overcome a determined effort from Minnesota.
"That's the way the game's supposed to look, for sure," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "But we have to make sure we don't get feeling too good about ourselves here. We've still got work to do."
Of late, the Wild have been plagued by long stretches where they control the play in the offensive zone but do not score. Tuesday had a similar start, with Minnesota testing Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier early but getting no reward.
Then things changed in a hurry.
Coyle snapped the deadlock with a little less than four minutes to play in the first, taking a Zach Parise pass from behind the net and sending a shot high over Bernier before the goalie could react. Just 16 seconds later, Clutterbuck doubled Minnesota's lead, blasting a rising shot over Bernier's right shoulder and into a tiny gap below the crossbar, for a 2-0 Minnesota lead. Clutterbuck had gone 18 games without a goal.
The Kings appeared to get on the scoreboard early in the second period, when Justin Williams knocked down a loose puck at the top of the crease, which slid past Niklas Backstrom. The on-ice officials immediately ruled no goal, then reviewed the play using video to confirm that Williams had played the puck with a high stick.
Wild fans were decidedly less happy with an officials' call, or lack thereof, later in the second. As Jason Pominville closed in on Kings captain Dustin Brown along the boards, Brown turned and delivered a solid elbow to Pominville's chin, knocking him down to the ice where he laid for several seconds before play was stopped. Pominville was helped to the locker room and did not return. Wild captain Mikko Koivu had an extended conversation with the officials, but no penalty was called on the play.
"I haven't seen it yet, but I had the puck on my stick, he's coming to hit me and I'm just bracing myself," Brown said.
Not surprisingly, the Wild saw things differently.
"I saw an elbow in the face," Clutterbuck said, admitting that keeping emotions in check after seeing a teammate go down was a challenge in the second half of the game. "It's difficult. But at the same time, we had a clear goal in mind and we couldn't really allow ourselves to get distracted."
The Kings waited until literally the final second of the middle period to finally get a goal. Carter took a pass from behind the net and snapped a high shot past Backstrom just as the horn was sounding. After a review it was determined that .8 seconds were left in the period when the puck went in. For Carter, it was his 26th goal of the season, which leads the Western Conference.
"You've got to play 60 minutes, playing a desperate hockey team," said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. "We turned the puck over too much in the first period. Eventually when you have that much skill on the other team they're going to score."
The Wild, who host Edmonton on Friday in their final home game of the regular season, got 22 saves from Backstrom. Los Angeles visits the Red Wings on Wednesday in the Kings' final road game of the regular season.
NOTES: The Wild wore camouflage jerseys during pre-game warm-ups on Tuesday, customized with each player's name and number. The jerseys will be sold in an on-line auction starting Thursday, with proceeds going to benefit Defending The Blue Line, a charity that helps military families pay their children's youth hockey fees. ... Kings forward Anze Kopitar came into Tuesdays game in the midst of an odd slump, having scored just one goal in Los Angeles' previous 17 games. But while he's not putting the puck in the net himself, he's been helping others do so, with nine assists in the Kings' past nine games. ... On Monday the Wild officially announced the relocation of their American Hockey League franchise from Houston to Des Moines, Iowa, for next season. The Iowa Wild will play in Wells Fargo Arena, a 16,000-seat facility in downtown Des Moines. The community last hosted an AHL team four years ago, when the Iowa Chops -- an affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks -- lasted one season there.