Minnesota didn't really have that bad of a night Monday. Really. They didn't.
Yeah, we know, the Vikings choked away their last chance at guaranteed home-field advantage in the NFL playoffs by losing in Chicago. But hey folks: anyone look at the calendar lately? It's mid-season in the NHL, and the Minnesota Wild are in mid-season form. Don't believe me? Just ask the Los Angeles Kings.
In front of a sellout -- 18,118 -- at STAPLES Center, the Wild wiped out their 5-game loss skein in Downtown LA with one of their best road periods of the season, as Martin Havlat, Kim Johnsson and ex-King Eric Belanger combined for three second period goals, then Belanger topped that with the game winner late in the third en route to a 4-3 victory, the Wild's third straight win.
The first period was a tight-checking, closely-played affair, as the two teams fought upand down in a constant puck-possession battle. The second period was almost all Minnesota as the Wild put three behind LA goaltender Jonathan Quick. The only blemish was Drew Doughty's B.S. goal which should have never counted, as Doughty fell down on his own after shooting, pushing his legs into Niklas Backstrom as the puck went across the goal line.
In the third period, the Wild's first penalty turned into LA's second goal as the puck glanced off the stick of Johnsson and into the Minnesota net to cut the lead to 3-2. 12 seconds after Scott Parse tied it for LA, Belanger answered with a slapshot from the face-off circle which beat Quick stick side high to make it 4-3, and as the Wild bottled up the Kings in their own zone, the clock ran out on Los Angeles.
The win is the Wild's 10th this month, breaking the old December record of 9, and now they are only one win away from breaking the single-season record for most wins in any calendar month (March, 2007). They are also 8-1-2 away from St. Paul, since their 0-8 road start in October. The Wild now have 43 points, still in 11th place, one point behind 9th place Detroit and tied with idle Dallas for 10th (the Wild have played one more game than the Stars). The Kings, on the other hand, lost their third straight game.
Now, it's down I-5 to Orange County, and the last meeting of the season for the Wild and the Anaheim Ducks in the Next Game: at Anaheim, tomorrow (Tuesday), 9:00 PM Central (7:00 PM Pacific) Time, Honda Center. (Wild TV: FSNorth; Ducks TV: FSPrime Ticket; XM NHL Home Ice, Ch. 204)