ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild scored two early goals, and then leaned heavily on goaltender Devan Dubnyk against the Los Angeles Kings at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday.
Dubnyk made 31 saves, and the Wild concluded their second back-to-back of the week with a 4-1 victory that moved them into third place in the Central Division, one point ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks. Minnesota has played 76 games, and Chicago 74.
"We still have a long ways to go," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "But I'll say, you look at what we've done lately and there's no reason why our group should not feel good and be confident.
"We've put ourselves, mathematically, in a very good position to make sure we're in the [Stanley Cup Playoffs], but let's keep doing everything we can to give ourselves a chance to win games and see where we end up."
The loss ended a three-game winning streak for the Kings, who will play the Blackhawks on Monday to conclude their five-game road trip. Los Angeles is in third place in the Pacific Division, one point ahead of the Calgary Flames.
Minnesota's second line scored twice in the first period for a 2-0 lead.
A pretty passing play set up Niederreiter alone in front of the net, and he put the puck on his backhand and waited out Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick at 3:15.
Koivu and forward Chris Stewart worked a perfect give-and-go for Minnesota's second goal. Koivu got the puck back from Stewart and roofed a backhand at 13:39. For Koivu, who assisted on Niederreiter's first goal, it was his 115th multipoint game, a new Wild record.
"I feel like we've started trusting each other," Niederreiter said. "I feel like we've gotten to know each other better on the ice and trusting our routes. Just a lot of talk off the ice and on the ice."
The Kings (37-24-14) took over in the second period but were stymied at nearly every turn by Dubnyk.
Los Angeles scored on Dwight King's 11th goal at 3:20 and put 17 shots on goal in the period.
But Dubnyk was steady. He also got some help from defenseman Jonas Brodin on one close call late in the period.
With the Kings on a power play after Wild defenseman Ryan Suter was called for slashing, defenseman Drew Doughty blasted a one-timer that was kicked away by Dubnyk right to Tyler Toffoli alone near the left post. With a wide-open net in front of him, Brodin reached his stick out just in time to deflect Toffoli's shot wide and keep the Wild in front.
"[Doughty] hammered it from in tight. It came off my pads so hard, all I had time to do was look over and think it was going in the net," Dubnyk said. "But [Brodin] saved it for me."
"We had some good momentum but we have to score goals," said Kings defenseman Matt Greene. "We gotta start on time. That's on us; we can't spot a team like that two goals."
Dubnyk, who started his 34th consecutive game with Minnesota, improved to 26-6-1 with a 1.70 goals-against average and .939 save percentage since being acquired by the Wild in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 14. He is 4-0-1 in the second half of back-to-back starts over that span.
"Back-to-backs are tough, they're hard on everybody," Dubnyk said. "I've got into a good rhythm. We've had a lot of [back-to-backs] this month. Sometimes you're tired, but you can kind of just build off the game the night before."
Each team slogged through the third period until Niederreiter scored his second of the night, 24th of the season, on the power play at 16:57 to give the Wild some breathing room.
Koivu scored an empty-net goal with 1:22 left.
Los Angeles went 0-for-3 on the power play, including 20 seconds of 5-on-3 in the second period.
"They beat us on special teams, and that's what it came down to," King said. "They capitalized on their chances. It took us awhile to get going."
Quick was pulled at the start of the second period after allowing two goals on seven shots. Martin Jones made nine saves over the final two periods in relief.