Published Thursday, May 20, 2021 | 2:45 p.m.
Updated Thursday, May 20, 2021 | 11:16 p.m.
ST. PAUL, Minnesota — What a difference a period makes.
The Golden Knights looked lifeless in the first period of Game 3 Thursday, mustering just four shots on goal and paid the price with a 2-0 deficit. They stormed back in the second with three goals on 22 shots and all they needed to grab a lead over the Minnesota Wild and keep it, adding two more goals in the third for a 5-2 victory at Xcel Energy Center and a 2-1 lead in the series.
It was the first regulation road victory against the Wild in team history. They were 2-6-0 entering play Thursday, with a shootout win and a 3-on-3 overtime win.
The first period couldn’t have been much worse for the Golden Knights. They mustered virtually nothing at 5-on-5, with five shots to show for it and a lot of skating backwards defending the Wild. Minnesota didn’t miss on too many of its chances, connecting twice — a tap-in from Ryan Hartman at 2:16 and a rebound goal from Joel Eriksson Ek at 8:30.
The second period was all Vegas. Mark Stone got things going at 8:39 and the Golden Knights never seemed to slow down. Patrick Brown, playing his first playoff game this year and just his fifth of the season, scored at 15:19 and Reilly Smith capped the second-period outburst at 17:33.
Playing with a lead in the third period, the Golden Knights suffocated the Wild to the tune of two shots on goal before William Karlsson put the game away. He entered the zone on a 2-on-1 with Jonathan Marchessault, kept hit himself and fired a laser beam into the net to put the Golden Knights up 4-2. Stone put his second of the game into an empty net with 59 seconds remaining.
The Golden Knights were outshot 7-4 in the first period, and outshot the Wild 36-9 for the rest of the game.
Check back to lasvegassun.com later for more coverage and read below for live updates from the game.
Golden Knights storm back in second to grab lead over Wild
After one of the worst periods of the season in the first, the Golden Knights came out with one of their best in the second.
Vegas erased a two-gaol deficit to the Wild in the middle period, scored three unanswered and seized a 3-2 lead after two periods at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday.
The Golden Knights desperately needed a goal and the captain delivered. Vegas came out much stronger in the second period than it did in the first and reaped the fruits of that at 8:39. Chandler Stephenson collected himself at the left-wing wall and found Mark Stone in the slot. Stone wasted no time and lasered the puck into the net to trim Minnesota’s lead to 2-1.
The goal lit a spark in the Golden Knights, who had their best shift of the game immediately after it. The fourth line of William Carrier, Patrick Brown and Ryan Reaves did a great job controlling the zone and fired five shots on net and before Brayden McNabb drew a penalty and brought Vegas to the power play.
It was a good power play with a couple of looks and Vegas spent nearly the full two minutes in the zone, but did not score. Through 11 minutes of the period, Vegas had 17 shots on goal and at one point had 15 consecutive shots.
The momentum continued throughout the period and eventually led to the equalizer by two players who entered the lineup for the first time in more than a month. Nick Holden, playing defense in Nicolas Hague’s place, fired intentionally wide of the net in hopes of getting a fortuitous bounce and got it. The puck trickled to the front and Patrick Brown, playing center in place of the injured Tomas Nosek, was there to score and tie the game.
Holden again made things happen on his next shift, again throwing a puck at the net trying to make things happen. It worked again, as this time Reilly Smith was there to jam the puck by goalie Cam Talbot and turn Vegas’ 2-0 deficit at the start of the period into a 3-2 lead by the end of it.
To put an exclamation point on the period, the Golden Knights drew a penalty in the final 10 seconds and will start the third with 1:50 of power-play time.
Vegas finished with a 22-5 lead in shots on goal for the period, and led 26-12 for the game.
Live Blog: Golden Knights facing early hole in Game 3 vs. Wild
The Golden Knights talked about the need for a fast start after Game 2. They didn’t get it in that game, but a poor first period didn’t hurt them. A poor first period put them in a big hole Thursday.
The Wild scored twice in the first 10 minutes of the period and netted another that was waived off as offside. Vegas found itself in a multiple-goal hole for the first time in the series, trailing Minnesota 2-0 after a period at Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild used an opportunity for an offensive zone for an early double-shift. After starting their top line with rookie sensation Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota went back to that line on its fourth shift of the game, skipping the fourth line in an early chance to score. Ryan Hartman won the draw clean, and Kaprizov got the puck back to him across for a tap-in and a 1-0 lead 2:16 into the game.
Vegas had a power play soon after and had a chance to start a push the other way, but the Wild were all over them in the first. They spent the season series and much of Game 1 and 2 winning puck battles in front of the net, and they did again at 8:30 to extend the lead.
Joel Eriksson Ek continued his breakout season and continued to be a thorn in the side of Vegas. He positioned himself perfectly in front of the net and when Marcus Foligno’s shot rebounded to him, he put it home for his second of the series after the overtime winner on Sunday.
Eriksson Ek even had another rebound goal later in the period, but it came off the board after a successful Vegas challenge for offside.
Vegas was held to five shot attempts at 5-on-5 for the period, and was outshot 7-4 in attempts on goal.
Golden Knights looking for secret to winning in Minnesota
The only two victories the Golden Knights have ever had at Xcel Energy Center have come in ways that don’t exist in the playoffs. They won in a shootout in 2018 and in 3-on-3 overtime two weeks ago. Overall, Vegas is 2-6-0 in eight all-time trips to Minnesota, including 1-3-0 this season.
The positive for the Golden Knights is that one win came the last time they were here. They played well in that game, and did in the game prior too before losing late in the third. Riding high off the victory Tuesday to even the series, the Golden Knights are looking forward to another chance to break the Minnesota curse when Game 3 against the Wild gets going at 6:30 p.m.
“I think we can look at what we did last time we were here and learn from it,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “All of us learning from that experience, taking it into the playoffs, maybe at times tightening up our game. I think we’re in a good spot. I think we feel pretty good and ready to roll.”
The Golden Knights have always seemed to have trouble scoring against the Wild, and following the Game 1 shutout there was a definite “here we go again” aura around the fanbase. It had a similar feel to the Dallas series last year, where Vegas allowed nine goals but lost the series in five games because it only mustered eight.
One player from that Dallas series pushed back that the Wild are the new Stars, though. Forward Mattias Janmark played for Dallas last year and doesn’t see the similarities that an outside observer might.
“It’s hard because I was on the other side. I don’t think (the Wild) play too much of the same style that we played in Dallas,” Janmark said. “Every playoff series is a difficulty. It’s always hard to score in the playoffs. The intensity cranks up and they’re a really good team and they have some really good players. So far, what we’ve done good is not giving those players too much, and they haven’t scored a lot either. I don’t see too many similarities in that, but I think in the playoffs all the series are similar in some ways.”
After three goals in Game 2, Vegas is feeling good. The lack of goals isn’t in the spotlight tonight, making way for the fact that through two games, the Golden Knights have allowed just 2 goals. Much of that is thanks to goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, but the skaters get some of that credit too. Through two games, Vegas has out-attempted the Wild 116-99 at 5-on-5 and is a few ticks back in expected goals.
It hasn’t been a lockdown performance from the defense by any means, but it’s been solid. And considering Vegas was on the wrong end of the expected-goals margin in six of the eight regular season meetings, that’ll do for now, knowing there’s still room for improvement.
“I think we’ve stepped up,” Theodore said. “Obviously having (Fleury) back there — he’s making huge saves left and right — I think a lot of those are our own defensive breakdowns that we can clean up a little bit to make his life a little bit easier. But I think, overall, we’ve done a good job kind of controlling them, trying to break out clean and keep them to the outside.”
While Minnesota is expected to keep the same lineup it had in the first two games, neither Max Pacioretty nor Tomas Nosek took part in morning skate, and DeBoer listed both as “game-time decisions.” He did not say whether either made the trip to St. Paul.
Nosek played Game 1 and left Game 2 in the second period, and Patrick Brown lined up on the fourth line in his absence. Pacioretty has not appeared with the team since May 1. Despite call-ups of forwards Cody Glass and Dylan Sikura on Wednesday night, both skated as extras during morning skate and are not expected to play.
Marc-Andre Fleury was the first goalie off the ice for morning skate, a typical indicator of that night’s starter in net. He has started both games of the series so far, after an every-other-game rotation with Robin Lehner in the regular season and has stopped 63 of the 65 shots sent his way.
Vegas is 6-2 all-time in Game 3 of a playoff series and 4-2 in a Game 3 where the series is tied.
This is the first road playoff game of the year, and the Golden Knights are 7-7 all-time in another team’s building in the playoffs (last year excluded, as the games were all in the Edmonton bubble with no fans). The Wild are expecting about 4,500 fans for Game 3 tonight.
Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1
Series: Tied 1-1
TV: AT&T SportsNet (DirecTV 684, Cox 1313, CenturyLink 1760)
Radio: Fox Sports 1340 AM and 98.9 FM
Betting line: Golden Knights minus-110, Wild minus-110; over/under: 5.5 (plus-110, minus-130)
Golden Knights (1-1, West Division No. 2 seed)
Coach: Pete DeBoer (second season)
Points leader: Alex Tuch (2)
Goals leader: Alex Tuch (2)
Assists leaders: Six players (1)
Expected goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury (0.98 GAA, .969 save percentage)
Wild (1-1, West Division No. 3 seed)
Coach: Dean Evason (second season)
Points leader: Jordan Greenway (2)
Goals leaders: Matt Dumba, Joel Eriksson Ek (1)
Assists leader: Jordan Greenway (2)
Expected goalie: Cam Talbot (1.47 GAA, .957 save percentage)
Golden Knights projected lineup
Alex Tuch—Chandler Stephenson—Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault—William Karlsson—Reilly Smith
Mattias Janmark—Nicolas Roy—Keegan Kolesar
William Carrier—Patrick Brown—Ryan Reaves
Alec Martinez—Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb—Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague—Zach Whitecloud
Marc-Andre Fleury, Robin Lehner