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Golden Knights 3, Wild 2: Minnesota suffers first regulation loss to Vegas

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That wasn’t fun.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild have had the Vegas Golden Knights’ number ever since the Knights joined the NHL back in 2017. With a nearly perfect record of 5-0-1 against the Golden Knights and an actually perfect record of 3-0 against them on the road, the Wild had every right to enter Tuesday night’s contest oozing with confidence.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep their streak of success in Vegas’ barn alive. For the first time ever, the Wild not only lost to the Knights on the road, but also lost to them in regulation. Despite the Wild getting some quality chances, Vegas outplayed Minnesota for much of the game and earned the 3-2 victory on home ice.

Minnesota actually got off to a pretty solid start. Despite being outshot in the first period, the Wild got on the board first by way of the power play, which has been a problem area for the Wild recently. Minnesota forward Mats Zuccarello sniped a puck past Marc-Andre Fleury from a Wild angle with just 39 seconds left in the opening stanza for his eighth goal of the season. Gorgeous feed from Eric Staal to set him up.

That wound up being Minnesota’s only goal on the man advantage, though, despite getting four additional opportunities on the power play.

From there, the Golden Knights began to take over in the middle period. Chandler Stephenson, who Vegas traded for just a couple weeks ago, got them on the board off a perfect feed from winger Mark Stone around the game’s midway point. But the goal that really killed Minnesota’s momentum was Shea Theodore’s snipe with 10 seconds remaining in the period. Not long after killing off a penalty, Vegas had the Wild pinned in their own zone as Theodore was given space on the right wing. Theodore took advantage of the open ice and beat Alex Stalock clean to give Vegas its first lead of the game.

While both teams fired nine shots on goal in the final frame, Minnesota just couldn’t bury any of its opportunities. Early in the period, Matt Dumba had a chance that likely should have resulted in a goal, but his shot went wide of the net.

It’s officially been 17 games since Dumba last found twine, and his lack of confidence certainly isn’t helping to end that drought.

“It’s unfortunate,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau after the game. “He cares so much, but he’s holding his stick so tight. I thought, he got the assist in the first period, maybe that would loosen him up a bit, and it did the first half of the game, I thought he was fine. He’ll find it. He’s been around here long enough. He’ll get it done.”

Before long, Knights forward Tomas Nosek scored his fifth of the season to extend the Vegas lead to two goals. The Wild did add another goal late in the third period when Zach Parise tapped in a rebound caused by Kevin Fiala, but it was too little too late at that point. The Wild couldn’t rebound after their loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.

Minnesota takes on Taylor Hall and the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.

Answers to our Burning Questions

1. Can Minnesota shut down the Golden Knights’ dangerous top line?

Yes and no. They couldn’t shut down Vegas’ other first line — the trio of Max Pacioretty, Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone. Stephenson got Vegas’ first tally of the night and Stone earned a pair of assists. Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith were held off the scoresheet, which is all well and good, but the line also finished the night with a 73.91 CF% and six scoring chances. They may not have beaten Stalock, but they were effective.

2. Will the Wild put an end to Pacioretty’s point streak?

No. Pacioretty remained hot and earned an assist on the night, extending his point streak to five games. He continues to dominate for Vegas, and even on a quiet night, he found a way to make an impact.

3. Can the Wild keep up the momentum on the power play?

Yes, but things could have been better. Zuccarello got the Wild on the board early with a goal on the man advantage, but Minnesota ultimately went 1-for-5 on the power play, which still isn’t up to snuff. The power play may be on a two-game scoring streak, but there’s no question that the Wild desperately need to improve in this area.