3 Keys: Golden Knights at Wild, Game 3 of first round


No. 2 Golden Knights at No. 3 Wild

9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2, BSN+, BSWI, ATTSN-RM

Best-of-7 series is tied, 1-1

The Minnesota Wild will try to continue their dominance at home against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup First Round at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday.

Minnesota is 6-0-2 at home against Vegas since the Golden Knights joined the NHL in 2017-18, including 3-0-1 this season.

“We’re looking forward for tonight and we’re excited to play at home in front of our fans here,” Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun tonight.”

This will be the first Stanley Cup Playoff game the Wild have hosted at Xcel Energy Center since Game 4 of the 2018 Western Conference First Round against the Winnipeg Jets. The Wild lost 2-0 and lost the best-of-7 series 4-1.

The Wild did not make the playoffs in 2018-19 and lost to the Vancouver Canucks in four games in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers last season, when the NHL staged a 24-team tournament in bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Minnesota is expected to have 4,500 fans in attendance Thursday as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

“It’s fantastic,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “Obviously Vegas had their home crowd; we’ve got our home crowd. We love playing here. We love playing in front of our fans, and we know our fans are going to be as vocal as theirs. So it’ll give us a great energy boost for sure.”

Teams that win Game 3 after a best-of-7 series is tied 1-1 are 223-107 (67.6 percent), including 3-1 in the first round last season. 

Here are 3 keys for Game 3:

1. Pacioretty’s status

Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty will be a game-time decision for the third straight game. He missed the final six games of the regular season and Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup First Round, but Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer said Pacioretty is progressing.

Pacioretty led Vegas with 24 goals in 48 games during the regular season and usually plays with forward Mark Stone, who led the Golden Knights with 61 points (21 goals, 40 assists) in 55 games. Stone has one assist in two games in the series and Vegas has scored three goals.

“When you take Pacioretty out of the lineup I think that negates maybe some advantage we might have in a scoring area, and then it’s two evenly matched teams going at it,” DeBoer said.

Forward Tomas Nosek also will be a game-time decision.

2. Persistence

The bad news for the Wild is that they have scored two goals against Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, one in regulation, on 65 shots in two games. The good news for the Wild is that Fleury has had to be outstanding.

“We just have to keep going,” Evason said. “Our opportunities are there. We just have to stay the course, keep believing that if we continually get those opportunities, we continually get to the net, maybe we’ll get some bounces, get some breaks, and some goals will go in.”

Game 1 is an example. After failing to score in regulation, the Wild won 1-0 in overtime after a shot by forward Joel Eriksson Ek deflected off Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez in front, changed direction and eluded Fleury.

3. Confidence

Although they have struggled historically in Minnesota, the Golden Knights won their last game there, 3-2 in overtime May 5. They had lost 6-5 there two days earlier after leading 5-3 to start the third period.

“We were good in both those games,” DeBoer said. “I think that’s what we take from that. We went in there and played two real good games, I think had a chance to win both games in regulation. Again, I think the way we played the last two times in there, I don’t think there’s any aura to going in there.”

Golden Knights projected lineup

Alex TuchChandler Stephenson — Mark Stone

Jonathan MarchessaultWilliam KarlssonReilly Smith

Mattias JanmarkNicolas RoyKeegan Kolesar

William CarrierPatrick BrownRyan Reaves

Alec Martinez — Alex Pietrangelo

Brayden McNabbShea Theodore

Nicolas HagueZach Whitecloud

Marc-Andre Fleury

Robin Lehner

Scratched: Dylan Coghlan, Nick Holden, Cody Glass, Dylan Sikura

Injured: Max Pacioretty (undisclosed), Tomas Nosek (undisclosed)

Wild projected lineup

Jordan Greenway — Joel Eriksson Ek — Marcus Foligno

Kirill KaprizovRyan HartmanMats Zuccarello

Kevin FialaVictor RaskMarcus Johansson

Nick BoninoNico SturmNick Bjugstad

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin — Matt Dumba

Carson SoucyIan Cole

Cam Talbot

Kaapo Kahkonen

Scratched: Zach Parise, Brad Hunt, Kyle Rau, Joseph Cramarossa, Dakota Mermis, Andrew Hammond, Calen Addison, Louie Belpedio, Matthew Boldy, Connor Dewar, Brandon Duhaime, Hunter Jones

Injured: None

Status report

Glass and Sikura were recalled from Henderson of the American Hockey League on Wednesday but neither forward is expected to play. … The Wild recalled defensemen Addison and Belpedio, forwards Boldy, Dewar and Duhaime, and Jones, a goalie, from Iowa of the AHL on Wednesday but none will play as Minnesota is not expected to make any lineup changes from Game 2.

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