The Vegas Golden Knights came up short against the Minnesota Wild on Monday as they fell 4-2 in the first potential elimination game. The win brings the Wild closer to the Golden Knights, but Vegas still holds a 3-2 series lead.
The Golden Knights were the better team throughout much of the game, limiting the Wild to just 14 shots, half of them coming in the first period.
Mark Stone got the scoring started after a pass from Alex Tuch, three shots into the game:
Tuch picked up his first assist of the series on the play as Stone picked up his fourth goal, scoring in three consecutive games.
Fifty-two seconds later, Kirill Kaprizov scored his first goal of the series and first career NHL playoff goal to tie the game. That was the Wild’s first shot of the game, and it ended up in the net. Nearly three minutes later, Zach Parise tapped a puck past Marc-Andre Fleury to make it a 2-1 game.
Jordan Greenway added one more before the first period was over after Fleury mishandled a puck, allowing Greenway a rebound opportunity.
The Golden Knights’ first-period struggles clearly continued on Monday, as Vegas started the game better than the Wild but didn’t finish the period that way. Minnesota played lazy hockey until the Kaprizov goal and then outplayed the Golden Knights for the rest of the period.
The Wild outshot Vegas 7-6 in the first period, with high-danger chances 4-2 and expected goals 1.11-0.47, all in Minnesota’s favor.
The Golden Knights proceeded to completely dominate the second period, however, allowing the Wild just one shot in the entire middle frame (0.04 expected goals).
Alec Martinez scored on the power play to bring the Golden Knights back within one in the second period:
Assist to Pietrangelo on Martinez's first goal of the playoffs. Second period magic again? pic.twitter.com/PrWeQBqTP8— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) May 25, 2021
The Golden Knights received another power-play opportunity later in the period but failed to convert.
After generating 22 shots, nine high-danger chances and 2.36 expected goals across all strengths in the middle frame, the Golden Knights got just one goal.
In the third, Nico Sturm cemented the game with an empty-net goal with 38.5 seconds remaining in the game.
The Golden Knights didn’t play with as much urgency as they needed to in the third period, the same urgency with which they played the second period. They took 11 shots to the Wild’s six and generated 0.71 expected goals to Minnesota’s 0.3.
The story of this game was the battle between Cam Talbot and Fleury, with Fleury coming up on the wrong side for the first time since Game 1.
Fleury let in two bad goals, including the game-winning tally to Greenway, and that ended up costing Vegas. Fleury made 10 saves on 13 shots in this game, including two goals from medium-danger range. It’s a far cry from his performance in the shutout in Game 4.
Talbot made 37 saves on 39 shots, saving 1.63 goals above expected. He was a perfect nine-for-nine from high danger.
Despite the score, there were some positive things for Vegas.
The Golden Knights didn’t take a single penalty. Just two were called all game, and one was an automatic for delay of game as the puck was sent over the glass by Matt Dumba.
The power play was also good, generating six shots on net and 0.9 expected goals in 3:51, scoring their second goal of the series.
Despite 40 shots on goal, several of Vegas’ best chances ended in misses — Vegas missed on 23 shots — and the Wild once again remained a consistent shot-blocking team. Minnesota blocked 21 of Vegas’ shots throughout the game, while the Golden Knights blocked 13 of Minnesota’s 32 attempts.
The loss continues the Golden Knights’ history of not having clinched a series at home.
The Golden Knights return to St. Paul, where they won two games in this series, on Wednesday. They can clinch the series with a win in Game 6.