Wild get big effort in 3-1 victory at Los Angeles

This was the effort the Wild needed back on March 20.

A little more than a month ago, Minnesota was three points out of a Western Conference playoff spot with a head-to-head chance to pull within three of seventh-place Los Angeles with 12 regular-season games left. Instead, the Wild fell flat in a 6-0 loss to the Kings at Arena.

That was the start of a 3-5-2 skid that knocked the Wild out of the playoffs for just the second time in 12 seasons.

It was a different story on Monday as the teams met in the penultimate game of Minnesota’s season, a 3-1 Wild victory that unfortunately came three nights after they were officially eliminated from playoff contention in 7-2 loss against the Golden Knights in Las Vegas.

“To come in here and get beat the way we did the last time, we wanted to win the hockey game tonight,” Wild coach John Hynes told reporters after the game.

Kirill Kaprizov had a goal and assist to increase his team-leading point total to 95, and Filip Gustavsson stopped 23 shots as the Wild clamped down on a playoff-bound Kings team that had won the first two matchups this season.

Matt Boldy and Ryan Hartman also scored goals for the Wild, who will close their season Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center against the Seattle Kraken.

Blake Lizotte scored a late goal, and Cam Talbot stopped 27 shots for the Kings, who blew a chance to pull even with Nashville for the sixth spot in the Western Conference playoff race.

Boldy opened the scoring late in the first period. With Alex Laferriere in the box for interference, Brock Faber started the breakout and passed to Marco Rossi, who was straddling the blue line.

Rossi quickly passed crossice to a trailing Boldy as he passed the blue line, and the big winger didn’t stop until he had beaten Talbot 5 hole from the slot for a 1-0 lead with 5:46 left in the period.

It was the 29th goal of the season for Boldy, who scored a career-high 31 last season.

After the Wild hit a post and a crossbar in the second period, they finally opened a two-goal lead late in what had been a tight-checking game when Hartman finished a 2 on 1 with Kirill Kaprizov.

Joel Eriksson Ek forced a neutral zone turnover and passed to Kaprizov at the blue line. The Wild’s leading scorer raced down the left boards and found a charging Hartman in the slot. Hartman held the puck until Talbot committed and beat the goaltender with a top-shelf shot over his glove hand to make it 2-0 with just 4.7 seconds left in the second period.

Kaprizov all but sealed the victory with his 45th goal, a deliberate carom off the back of Talbot that gave the Wild a 3-0 lead at 11:35 of the third period. He is now two shy of his franchise single-season record of 47 goals in 2022-23.

“Smart. Really smart move,” Hynes told reporters. “It’s really tough to defend. I mean, the only way to defend it is if it bounces the right way for the goalie. Smart.”

It proved to be an important goal, because the Kings finally scored with 5:24 left in regulation, Lizotte scoring with a wrist shot through a little traffic to end a 3-on-3 rush.

Kings head coach Jim Hiller pulled Talbot with 2:17 left in regulation, and the Kings had 1.4 seconds of 6 on 4 when Eriksson Ek was penalized for holding and the clock ran out.

“The response the last two games, and the environment around the room, the commitment to play is what it needs to be, regardless of the situation,” Hynes said. “We’re handling it the right way. We don’t like the situation that we’re in, but the only thing we can control is what we do with it, and the guys did a really good job with it tonight.”

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