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Golden Knights at Wild — Game 6 Preview: Vegas looks to clinch series in second effort

The Vegas Golden Knights’ first effort at clinching the series against the Minnesota Wild didn’t go so well. In Monday’s 4-2 Game 5 loss, the Golden Knights were guilty of not following through on the same keys to victory as have been repeated all series long.

Play better in the first period (they didn’t). Marc-Andre Fleury has to be the better netminder (he wasn’t). Score goals (they didn’t, at least not enough).

The Golden Knights have likely given up on getting Max Pacioretty back for this series, but that doesn’t mean other players can’t step up. In Game 5, that was Alec Martinez and Mark Stone — again, for the latter.

The Golden Knights are clearly the better team, a pattern repeated throughout this series as well. Vegas dominated Game 5, including 33 shots to 13 against at 5-on-5 and 2.6 expected goals to 1.47 against. Those stats especially poured in during a second period where the Golden Knights put 22 shots on Cam Talbot’s net while allowing just one against.

Still, the fact that the same points keep being repeated and yet the Golden Knights are not advancing (at least, not yet) signifies something. The Golden Knights know what needs to be better to beat the Wild, they just didn’t get it done in Game 5.

This repeats another pattern — the Golden Knights have yet to clinch a series at home in their franchise history. Hopefully, this means Vegas accomplishes the feat in St. Paul, where they’ve already taken both games of this series so far.

Here’s what to watch for as the Golden Knights try again to clinch the series and advance to the second round.

What to watch for

  • Fleury will need a bounce-back game after Game 5, when two of the three goals against him in the first period were mistakes he’d likely want back. Both Zach Parise’s score, when Fleury was used as a backboard, and Jordan Greenway’s goal, when Fleury could have played the puck better, were avoidable. Through the majority of the games against the Wild, Fleury has been the better goaltender. His effort in the 4-0 shutout in Game 4 was just two games ago, after all. Fleury has a .930 save percentage and has saved 4.65 goals above expected against the Wild. He is capable of more and may need to prove it in Game 6 if the Golden Knights are to clinch the series.
  • The Golden Knights’ play in the first period still has to be better. Following Game 5’s effort, when the Golden Knights started hot but then gave up three goals in the second half of the period, Vegas has now been outscored by Minnesota 10-9 in all 13 games between the teams this season and 5-2 in the playoffs. Starting the game sets the tone, and so far Minnesota has been the team doing that. The Golden Knights need to come out at the start of the game the way they came out for the second period in Game 5, or at least have more energy than they’ve displayed in a first period so far. The Golden Knights have generated 12 high-danger chances to 20 against at 5-on-5 in first periods against the Wild, and expected goals are 4.28 to 2.79 in Minnesota’s favor. That has to change.
  • Shea Theodore, after a season that should net him Norris votes, has yet to show up to the playoffs. The second season is normally the best part of Theodore’s season (he led the team in points during last year’s bubble postseason), yet Theodore has been one of the very few Golden Knights’ defensemen — or players — without a point. There are just four on the Vegas roster without a point, which includes Ryan Reaves, Nicolas Hague — who has played three games — and Tomas Nosek, who has played two. This is the same guy who was fourth on the Golden Knights’ roster in points during the regular season. The same guy who dominated offensive stats among defensemen this season. It’s time for Theodore to find and unleash his playoff mode. /

How to watch

Time: 6 p.m.

TV: NBCSN, ATT&T SportsNet

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM