Golden Knights 5, Wild 2: Vegas scores five unanswered goals in comeback win, takes 2-1 series lead

The Golden Knights played essentially perfect hockey after a rough start.

The Vegas Golden Knights overcame a 2-0 deficit with five unanswered goals to defeat the Minnesota Wild 5-2 on Thursday, bringing the first-round series to 2-1 in Vegas’ favor.

It was the Golden Knights’ first win in regulation in Minnesota in franchise history.

The Golden Knights continue to miss Max Pacioretty, as Vegas’ leading goal scorer missed the third game of the series. With Tomas Nosek also injured, Patrick Brown was substituted in on the fourth line and Nick Holden was inserted into the lineup in Nic Hague’s place.

The game started with the Golden Knights’ worst period, as they gave up two goals to the Wild, including tallies from Ryan Hartman and Joel Eriksson Ek. In that first period, Vegas generated just four shots on goal and one high-danger chance across all strengths, which included four minutes on the power play.

The game hinged on Vegas head coach Pete DeBoer’s challenge of Minnesota’s third goal. His challenge was successful, as the goal was overturned due to a skater being offside. After that challenge, the game massively turned in Vegas’ favor.

After the first period, the Golden Knights allowed just nine shots, six of them at 5-on-5. They generated 36 shots in those same two periods, keeping consistent and constant pressure on the Wild.

Vegas was especially successful in turning the game around once their own scoring started. At 8:39 of the second period, Mark Stone scored his first goal of the series:

The Golden Knights have needed more scoring in this series, and getting their captain going was a missing factor, as Stone was dealing with increased pressure from the Minnesota defense throughout the first two games.

Brown, who scored once in two playoff games with the Knights last year but was held without a goal in four games this season, added his second career playoff goal with Vegas later in the second to tie the game:

Brown found a way to get the fourth line scoring. A little over two minutes later, Reilly Smith, who had been snakebitten for most of the year and scored just 10 goals in the regular season, scored his first goal of the 2021 playoffs:

That goal gave Vegas a 3-2 lead, which would hold until late in the third period. Luckily, the Golden Knights were the ones to break that lead, as William Karlsson added to it near the end of the third frame:

Alex Pietrangelo would make a defensive stop before the end of the game, as after losing his stick due to a collision with the net, Pietrangelo made a diving save to clear the puck out as it sat on the goal line.

Mark Stone banked a full-court shot off of Jonas Brodin to score on the empty net, bringing the score to 5-2.

Besides that very rough first period — now a pattern in the series — the only real negative in this game for Vegas was the power play, even if it generated more chances than usual. In 10 minutes of time, the Golden Knights’ power play generated 13 shots, three high-danger chances and 1.32 expected goals, but continued to find ways not to capitalize on those chances.

Net-front presence has been continuously lacking for the Golden Knights on the man advantage. This is especially a problem with players like Ryan Reaves, Keegan Kolesar and now Brown (whose goal came from a rebound near the net front) being in the lineup but not being added to the power play.

The penalty kill, meanwhile, allowed just one shot while generating two in four minutes of play. Vegas’ penalty kill was the best in the league in the regular season for a reason, and that trend continued in Game 3. Vegas’ shorthanded units are very good, and in this game, the team at 5-on-5 played like the penalty kill in the second and third.

DeBoer’s lineup changes paid off for the Golden Knights in this game. In addition to Brown’s game-tying goal, Holden, in 13:01 (least among Vegas defensemen) had two primary assists and created a rebound.

At 5-on-5 in the final 40 minutes, the Golden Knights generated 1.42 expected goals to just 0.69 allowed.

It does not get much better than how the Golden Knights played those final two frames. Now, if only they could begin starting games better as well.

Marc-Andre Fleury faced just 16 shots, but he made some big saves, including one on Kirill Kaprizov in the second period that preceded Vegas’ scoring burst. He has given up four goals in three games this series.

The Golden Knights play Game 4 against the Wild on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.