The Minnesota Wild still played a consistent game overall in their second matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday. Despite losing 3-1, the Wild led in shots and had plenty of high-danger chances.
When Minnesota needed it most, mainly down near the end of the third period when down 2-1, the stars that were pressing all night still couldn’t pull through.
Kevin Fiala looked poised to have a multi-point night. Ryan Hartman continued his frustrating tour against Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and continued to see each of his hard-working chances denied. Kirill Kaprizov is bound to keep fans on the edge of their seats whenever he has the puck and fires a few shots on net. Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno and Jordan Greenway dominated shifts with offensive zone pressure all game.
Between those six players, just one had a point: Greenway recorded an assist on the team’s lone goal.
Each of those players played extremely consistent hockey all night, bringing the same thing to the ice each shift. Fiala had eight of Minnesota’s 35 shots on net, while Hartman and Eriksson Ek each had four. Fleury stood tall, as he did for much of the first game.
Fiala’s chances weren’t just limited to shots, though. He drove a few chances with his linemates that really had a chance to break through. In the third, he led a 2-on-1 with Victor Rask, with Rask barely missing the net, sending the puck off the top of the crossbar.
Aside from Fiala’s generosity, he really worked to make something happen by himself all game, too. After all, it’s hard to get eight shots in a game by accident.
Besides Fiala, take a look at Hartman’s effort here. His motor has been running hot in both games so far, so much so that his frustration with not hitting the back of the net became apparent through the TV broadcast in Sunday’s game.
The Eriksson Ek line thrived all night in the physical game and board battles. His shift that led to the Matt Dumba goal in the second period highlighted his efforts. Strong play on the boards and a screen in front gave the team an advantage, even though it turned out to be short-lived.
Flash back to two minutes remaining in the third period, with Minnesota down 2-1. The Wild are on the verge of pulling the goaltender to get the man-advantage and a better chance of tying up the game. As mentioned earlier, Kaprizov had been relatively quiet this game, garnering just two shots.
A foiled break out of the defensive zone leads Kaprizov to attempt to regain the puck. But in doing so, he trips a Vegas player and heads to the box with 90 seconds left, essentially killing any chance the Wild had of tying the game.
The infraction happened at just about the worst time it could have all game, not to mention that they would have to go on the penalty kill. A tough break for a dynamic player for sure, but that was just the closing bell on what was a frustrating night for each of the team’s offensive stars that couldn’t buy goals throughout the entire game.
As the series progresses, the Wild’s scorers would have to remain extremely unlucky, or Fleury would need to continue to be nearly perfect with every flashy save to stay shut down in the scoring department completely. Over the course of a potential seven-game series, that should be hard to accomplish, considering the Wild were ninth in the league in scoring this season with 181 goals. In addition, the breakout for goal scorers such as Fiala, Kaprizov and even Eriksson Ek should negate such an outcome for the Wild.
It can make the team look snakebitten for a game, but as the series plays out, their fortunes should even out. Just as the power play looked anemic early in the season, it rebounded in spades late in the season to get back to the pack.
For each of these stars that couldn’t hit the net in Game 2, there’s no reason to believe they won’t get similar chances to be the hero in game three back in St. Paul.
These emerging star players pushed all night, but they never could break through. Some of that is that it’s the playoffs. In tight games, chances won’t fall in a full 60-minutes sometimes. Ultimately, that’s why the series are seven games long. Let the bad breaks even out with the true talent for each team.
Based on the way the Wild have played through two games so far, there is no doubt that they belong in this series with Vegas and have a serious chance to upend one of the potential Cup favorites in the first round.