Darcy Kuemper's second start this season was a lot better than his first.
Kuemper made 39 shots through 65 minutes and stopped all four shots he faced in the shootout before Nino Niederreiter's goal in the tiebreaker gave the Minnesota Wild a 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night.
Kuemper's lone NHL start this season came on Oct. 15, when he allowed three goals on seven shots against the Montreal Canadiens. He hadn't played in an NHL game since a relief appearance against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 19, and he's spent most of the season with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League.
"This was a chance to redeem myself," Kuemper said. "My game is where I want it to be right now."
"I'm real happy for Darcy," coach Mike Yeo said. "He got thrown into a situation where he didn't know he was going to play until this morning, and he responded very well. I thought a lot of guys competed and battled for us tonight, but you have to look at him first. Right from the start he looked very confident."
Yeo said Backstrom was sore and tight, but expected him to be "fine tomorrow."
Kuemper said one key to the win for his depleted team was not trying to do too much.
"We tried to keep it simple," he said. "It didn't have to be pretty. We're on the road. We focused on battling and working hard and pulling out an ugly road win, and that's exactly what we did."
Niederreiter tied the game 3:25 into the third period, then won it by deking Jonathan Quick before ripping a wrist shot into a wide-open net in the fourth round of the tiebreaker.
"It's a good statement to the rest of the team that they can count on him to come in play like that," Yeo said.
Jarret Stoll scored and Quick made 16 saves for the Kings, who've dropped six of seven. Los Angeles lost despite attempting 82 shots to 39 for Minnesota. The Wild blocked 21 shots and the Kings missed the target on 21 others.
"We've got to bear down and capitalize on our opportunities," Stoll said. "It doesn't matter what the shot clock is, it doesn't matter what the possession time is, the only thing that matters is the scoreboard. Everybody knows that."
After outshooting the Wild 30-9 through two scoreless periods, the Kings needed all of 50 seconds to get on the board in the third.
Dwight King picked up the puck in his own zone and raced through the neutral zone before dishing the puck to Jeff Carter at the Minnesota blue line. Carter carried down right wing, circled the net and slid a pass through the slot to Stoll, who was coming late. Stoll slid to his right, got Kuemper to open his pads and slid a shot though the five-hole for his sixth of the season.
The lead lasted only until Niederreiter drove to the net and deflected Jason Pominville's pass behind Quick for his ninth of the season. It came on the Wild's 11th shot of the game.
The rest of regulation time featured little in the way of scoring chances, and neither team generated much offense in overtime.
"We bent but never broke," Kuemper said. "We did a good job of keeping the shots to the outside."
The Kings had by far the better of play in the first period, but couldn't get a puck past Kuemper. They outshot Minnesota 17-6, including 13-0 during the final 14 minutes.
Los Angeles continued to pound away without success in the second period, outshooting the Wild 12-2 through the first 11:30 and 13-3 for the period. Four of the shots came in succession during the Kings' lone power play, but Kuemper denied three straight tries with his pad before gloving Carter's chip.
"We're getting to the net on some shifts, and some shifts we're not," Stoll said. "Goalies are good in this League, and they're going to make saves if they can see the puck. We're not making if hard enough on goaltenders right now."
The Wild generated their best pressure in the final two minutes of the period, hemming the Kings in their own zone and controlling the puck, but they missed the net three times and had two other attempts blocked.
Material from team media was used in this report.
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