After a very disappointing showing from the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Kings, the Golden Knights looked to bounce back against the Minnesota Wild Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena in the second half of a back-to-back.
It was a goaltending duel between Robin Lehner and Cam Talbot all the way until the end, but the Wild came out on top with a 3-2 shootout win.
The Golden Knights seemed to be playing an April Fools’ joke when the lines were announced prior to puck drop, but Vegas was as serious as can be.
With multiple injuries and a suspension, the Knights were only able to dress 10 forwards and six defensemen in tonight’s game. Zach Whitecloud and Ryan Reaves were out of the lineup due to injury while Chandler Stephenson served the first of his three-game suspension after the hit on Los Angeles’ Tobias Bjornfot.
Despite the challenges in the lineup, the Golden Knights got off to a very fast start. William Karlsson picked up a loose puck and fired it past Cam Talbot with a perfectly-placed wrist shot just 3:29 into the game.
Shea Theodore and Alec Martinez were credited with the assists on Karlsson’s 10th of the season.
A few moments later, Nic Roy was whistled for high-sticking Matt Dumba, though Vegas was able to get the kill against the league’s worst power play.
After the kill, however, Minnesota was able to tie the game at 1-1 after rookie sensation Kirill Kaprisov deflected the puck past Lehner.
Near the end of the period, the Golden Knights went to the power play but were not able to set anything up, which would be a theme of the night. The teams went to the locker room tied at 1-1.
Both teams played well in the early stages of the second period, but both goaltenders were able to keep everyone off the scoresheet.
The Golden Knights were sent back to the penalty kill when Reilly Smith was whistled for holding Kaprizov but once again killed it off with ease.
Moments later, Talbot made the save of the game on Keegan Kolesar after a 2-on-0 chance for Vegas.
Kolesar was robbed yet again right off the faceoff when Talbot possibly topped his work from seconds before with a reaching safe with his stick.
The Golden Knights began to buzz and were sent to the power play after Karlsson was slashed by multiple Minnesota players. Although Vegas was able to generate some good chances, they were unable to beat Talbot, who was outstanding tonight.
Talbot once again absolutely robbed the Golden Knights late in the second period. Alex Tuch was able to get in all alone but was stymied by a great pad save.
The second period came to a close, but not without some chirping from both sides.
But Vegas was rewarded for all of its great work towards the end of the second period. As the third started, Brayden McNabb scored his first of the season and his first since November 2019.
The goal that broke the tie was assisted by William Carrier and Tomas Nosek.
The game began to get chippy, and there were a slew of penalties that ended up sending the Wild to a 4-on-3 power play for a minute. This time, they were able to capitalize as Jared Spurgeon beat a screened Lehner with a rifled one-timer to tie the game.
The Golden Knights got another power-play opportunity but continued to struggle on the man advantage, and the opportunity fell by the wayside.
Both teams pushed hard, and Lehner was called upon in the dying seconds of regulation, but the teams headed to overtime at 2-2.
The Golden Knights got a rare power play in overtime after Lehner got steamrolled by Joel Eriksson Ek on a breakaway. The Wild were able to get the kill despite some chances from Vegas, who finished the game 0-for-4 on the power play.
The teams both had some great chances in overtime, but the goalies stood tall to force a shootout.
In the shootout, Jonathan Marchessault, Shea Theodore and Alex Tuch failed to score. For Minnesota, Mats Zuccarello appeared to have beaten Lehner, but the puck hit the post and then stayed out of the net thanks to a late desperation pad save by Lehner.
However, the puck did end up in the net after Kevin Fiala’s shot hit the post and squeezed through Lehner, which ended up being the only shootout goal of the game.
The Wild pulled off the victory, but the Golden Knights picked up a crucial point, which moves them into a tie for first place in the West Division with the Colorado Avalanche.
Despite the fact that Vegas played with just 10 forwards, Pete DeBoer further shortened the bench by giving Keegan Kolesar limited ice time. He had just three shifts in the third period and overtime. The Knights also shortened the bench on the back end down the stretch.
Golden Knights shortened up the defense in the final 12 minutes. Hague did not play the final 11:52 of regulation, Coghlan the final 7:06.— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) April 2, 2021
It was one of Lehner’s best games as a Golden Knight; he finished the night with 35 saves on 37 shots for a .946 save percentage and made some huge stops at key points in the game.
And then Robin Lehner did THIS. pic.twitter.com/qxpr8XbVYD— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) April 2, 2021
Talbot managed the same numbers but made the extra stop in the shootout.
This was a crazy game from the start given the 10-forward lineup, but Vegas was in it until the end. The power play’s ineffectiveness was costly, especially during the overtime opportunity. That has been an issue for the Knights throughout the year, but it could have been particularly useful tonight given the circumstances.
Vegas has lost two straight and four of its last seven games, going 3-3-1 in that stretch.
Tonight was the first time in the series that the road team prevailed; Vegas is now 2-2-1 in the season series, which will continue Saturday night in the second part of the two-game set.