"One step forward, baby, two steps back," was Paula Abdul's refrain from her mid-80' s hit, 'Opposites Attract'.
The same could be said for the Minnesota Wild on Saturday afternoon at STAPLES Center, as the Los Angeles Kings parlayed a very bad start from Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom into a 4-3 win, assuring the Wild of a losing record on their six-game, 10-day road odyssey.
Backstrom's two softies in the first period negated goals from Owen Nolan and Stephane Veilleux as the Kings won their second home game in a row in front of a 18,118-capacity sellout crowd. The victory meant also a Kings sweep of the season series vs. the Wild, winning all four games played between the two teams.
It didn't take long for the energy of Thursday night's come-from-behind victory vs. San Jose to be sucked out of the Wild, as Kyle Quincey's weak shot slid under Backstrom's leg pad and into the net, just 2:26 into the opening period. To make matters worse yet, it was the first shift in nearly a year for Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster, who was inserted into the line-up after Brent Burns came down with flu symptoms after warm-ups.
Twenty-nine seconds after Nolan scored to tie it at 1, Kyle Calder slid yet another shot under Backstrom's pads and that one found twine to give the Kings a 2-1 lead. Veilleux scored a short time later and the first period agonizingly ended 2-2. The second period was all Kings, and Backstrom was finally driven to the bench after Anze Kopitar's wrist shot went just under the crossbar to make it 3-2 LA, the fourth consecutive game in which Kopitar has scored. Josh Harding relieved Backstrom at that point. LA made it 4-2 a few minutes later, as Teddy Purcell's rebound of his own shot came back to him, and he clanked it off the farside post and past Harding at the second period waned on.
The third period was back and forth, as Eric Belanger scored off LA goalie Jonathan Quick's skate at 4:43 of the third period. LA, then taking a page from the Wild playbook, went into a 'hockey prevent' defense with one big exception: at least the Kings were somewhat aggressive with the puck, keeping the Wild bottled up in the neutral zone most of the last 15 minutes of the game.
The Wild are now 6-9 for the season in back-to-backs when one of the games is on a Saturday, and 8-10-1 overall on Saturdays (4-6-0 on the road, 4-4-1 at home).
(The assembled multitude were asked for opinions, but no garlic after Friday's Gilroy adventure...)
Chicken Little: The only thing consistent about the Wild is their inconsistency. This was a game ripe for the taking, and they flat out blew it. No sense of urgency in this club whatsoever.
Pollyanna: Kurtis Foster is back in the lineup. That's a good thing. Now, if we can get the other guy -- Mr. 'Me, Me, Me' -- back, we may be able to get the offense started somewhat.
Bottom Line: The Wild did themselves no favors today. Fans at the 'X' (remember them, guys? You haven't seen them in two weeks!) scream for the club to focus on how they're playing. Quite frankly, it's becoming more apparent than ever that this club needs not just a minor tune-up, but a major rebuild from the ground up. Of course, DR and TL will be hamstrung until (and, unless) they get rid of Gaborik and some of the others, one way or another. Until Gaby is sent packing, this team will be in total and complete disarray. I would say right now that if the Naegele family was still in charge of this club, DR's days would be numbered. Who knows what Craig Leipold thinks. He's too busy B.S.'ing people at burger and pancake feeds...
Stud: Kurtis Foster, if for no other reason than to honor his true grit and determination to return to the NHL. 'Fozzie' deserved better than a game like this one. Again, the Wild did not fail to disappoint.
Dud: Backstrom. Although he didn't get hung with the loss, he did take the sabre afterwards for his lack of effort this afternoon. He should have. The game he played was bad. REALLY bad.
Next: at Anaheim, Sunday (tomorrow!), 7:00 PM Central (5 PM Pacific) Daylight Time, Honda Center. (TV: FSNorth, FSPrime Ticket, XM Ch. 206)
WRT (who gets to set 10 clocks ahead...tomorrow, after some sleep...)