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‘We let them dictate’: Players react to crumbling Game 3 performance

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After the game, the blame was assigned.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Vegas Golden Knights at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild were dealt a tough hand in their return home in Game 3 of the first-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights. Coming out hot in the first period, filling us with the illuminating hope of a second-round appearance, was quickly followed by a multi-goal collapse completely killing any potential of being up in this series heading back to Nevada.

Falling face-first into their own defense, the Wild allowed 40 shots on goal, while getting only 16 for Marc-Andre Fleury to face. While most of those Vegas shots were from the perimeter of their zone, it was still a disappointing finish to a game that appeared to be in the bag at one point.

“We gave them everything,” winger Ryan Hartman said after the 5-2 loss. “We had no possession, no work ethic, no battle. We got away from our game, and we let them dictate.”

While the Wild held the Knights goal-less on their five powerplay opportunities, they were still completely dominated from the drop of the puck in the second period.

“We know we have to score to win the games,” center Joel Eriksson Ek said. “Just have to get to the front of the net and be around it and get those rebounds.”

Eriksson Ek was able to get one of the two Wild goals — and almost got a second if not for it being called off during an offside review — so he’s certainly pulling at least some of his weight around the ice.

In terms of getting around the net and pouncing on those rebounds, the Wild have actually gotten the better of the Knights in terms of high-danger chances through the three games so far. Minnesota has been able to get 28, while Vegas is sitting with 22, and they both sit even with three goals each coming from that same area on the ice. It’s not like they’re not getting those chances, it’s just not having Marc-Andre Fleury pull out his magic glove and zap up the puck like its magnetic.

“You have to have a short memory,” Wild netminder Cam Talbot said. “Anytime you let something like that linger, it’s going to carry over into the next game, and we don’t have the luxury of easing our way into it.”

Talbot has been a part of four different postseasons with four different teams now, and they all kind of sucked. Not saying that the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, or Calgary Flames were really set on contending, but he definitely knows what it’s like to be an underdog in a series.

With that short term memory in mind, the Wild will be boasting a new-look forward lineup as Marcus Johansson broke his arm during an unfortunate collision with a goalpost on Thursday. Whether it is Zach Parise coming into the lineup or freshfaced Matt Boldy making his NHL debut, there will be new forwards for the Wild to get a spark out of.

Every game is a must-win game, but this one on Saturday will really spell out disaster or hope.