The goals were coming, the Minnesota Wild were rolling, but suddenly, the momentum seemed to leave.
It wasn’t having Joel Eriksson Ek's potential second goal the game nullified by offsides— although being up 3-0 after the first period would have set the tone for the following 40 minutes — instead, that tone was set by a Ryan Hartman slashing call 25 seconds after the no-goal call.
For the NHL’s 10th most penalized team in the regular season, the Hartman slash, followed by tripping calls against Ian Cole and Kirill Kaprizov, put a cap on a brutal second period that saw the Vegas Golden Knights put up 36 shot attempts to their own 15, via NaturalStatTrick.com. The 208 penalties taken during the regular season didn’t seem to prepare them to regain some momentum coming out of those penalty kills.
You could feel the shift on the ice in favor of the Golden Knights, a disappointing turn of events, considering the solid start by the Wild that resulted in having a 15-5 edge in shot attempts at 5-on-5 in the first frame. Not to mention the two — a third temporarily — goals in the first. Head coach Dean Evason felt that shift was palpable and said as much in his post-game presser.
“Biggest turning point was our penalties. I haven’t watched them all yet. It took us out of rhythm, took us out of the hockey game,” Evason said. “We got frustrated; they pushed. We had a lot of guys playing minutes in the second period and a lot of guys not. We really shot ourselves. They clearly pushed real hard. Our first [period] was as good as it gets; their second was good as it gets. But we fed into it by the penalties for sure. I think that's what probably got away from us.”
The penalties were hardly egregious, and it didn't feel like the Wild were getting jobbed by the referees. This was simply a case of circumstance, as every time the Wild would get going, they would hand an opportunity to the Golden Knights. They should be thanking their luck that the league’s eighth-worst powerplay has continued that trend into the post-season, scoring only once on ten opportunities.
“We’ll look at the penalties, the trappings, and whatever. They aren’t super undisciplined penalties clearly, but we need to avoid them so that we don't get out of rhythm.”