The Minnesota Wild looked like a different team over the final two periods of a 5-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup First Round at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday.
They were outscored 5-0 and outshot 36-9, after outscoring the Golden Knights 2-0 and outshooting them 7-4 in the first period.
“Everything,” forward Ryan Hartman said. “We left [goalie Cam Talbot] out to dry a little bit there — a lot. We gave them everything. We had no possession, no work ethic, no battle. We got away from our game, and we let them dictate. We gave them everything there.”
Hartman gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead at 2:16 of the first. Joel Eriksson Ek made it 2-0 at 8:30 and appeared to make it 3-0 at 13:05, but his second goal was disallowed after the Golden Knights challenged the play and it was ruled offside.
“Of course, it would have been a great goal for us to have,” Eriksson Ek said.
The odds still favored Minnesota. The Wild were 12-3-3 against the Golden Knights in the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs since Vegas entered the NHL in 2017-18, including 6-0-2 at home. They were 24-6-2 when scoring first and 17-4-2 when leading after the first period in the regular season and playoffs this season.
But Vegas dominated the second period. The Golden Knights outscored the Wild 3-0 and outshot them 22-5. They took 18 of the last 19 shots in the period, including 14 in a row over one stretch.
That carried into the third.
“They adjusted and played a little harder,” defenseman Ian Cole said. “We need to match that intensity. It was a couple little things here and there. I mean, it wasn’t terrible, but it also clearly wasn’t good enough. Hopefully we can step back and look at that second and third period objectively and see what went wrong and see what went right in the first period.”
Coach Dean Evason pointed to penalties as the turning point even though the Wild went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill. The Wild gave the Golden Knights two power plays in the first, one in the second, one late in the second that stretched into the third and another in the third.
“It took us out of rhythm, took us out of the hockey game,” Evason said. “We got frustrated. They pushed, and we had a lot of guys playing a lot of minutes there in the second period and a lot of guys not. So we really [hurt] ourselves. They clearly pushed real hard. I mean, our first period was as good as it gets. Their second was as good as it gets, but we fed into it by the penalties for sure. So I think that’s probably what got away from us.”
Vegas leads the best-of-7 series 2-1. Game 4 is at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN360, TVAS2).
“This team is a team that comes at you in waves, and we saw it in the second and third there,” Talbot said. “If there’s any doubt in our mind, it’s going to show, so we’ve got to come ready to play on Saturday as a confident, positive group, take what we were able to do in the first period and translate it into 60 good minutes.”
The Wild have lost two straight games, but they haven’t lost three in a row all season.
“We’ve done it for long stretches all year, for multiple games in a row, and I have no doubt we can do it again for Game 4,” Cole said. “I think everyone’s aware of the situation that we’re in, how crucial Game 4 is in the series, and obviously the difference in whether we lose Game 4 or win Game 4. There’s no secrets. There’s no secret recipe. It’s just a matter of will.”