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Golden Knights complete sweep in Minnesota, take control of series

Updated May 22, 2021 - 9:27 pm

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Pete DeBoer doesn’t have to worry about being asked whether the Golden Knights can win in Minnesota.

Not after Saturday.

Not after the Knights finished a two-game sweep at Xcel Energy Center and pushed the Wild to the brink of elimination.

Nicolas Roy scored twice, and Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside all 35 shots he faced to lift the Knights to a 4-0 victory over the Wild in Game 4 of the West Division first-round playoffs.

“We all know Minnesota’s record in here, and we all heard how good they are playing at home from them,” said DeBoer, the Knights’ coach. “To come in here and sweep with their home record is a real testament to our group.”

The Knights took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and can close out the Wild in Game 5 on Monday when more than 11,000 fans are expected at T-Mobile Arena.

Despite playing without defenseman Brayden McNabb and forwards Max Pacioretty and Tomas Nosek, the Knights benefited from a successful coach’s challenge for the second straight game and killed a four-minute penalty in the second period.

“You usually go on the road, you’re hoping for a split,” captain Mark Stone said. “But when you win that first game, the mindset changes. We wanted to leave with two after we got that first one. The last five periods have been pretty solid.”

Fleury started for the fourth straight game and recorded his 16th career postseason shutout, tying Curtis Joseph for third all time.

He stopped Joel Eriksson Ek on a breakaway at the end of the double-minor penalty and had 13 stops in the third period as the Knights sat back and nursed the lead.

“The body feels good. My team’s been great for me,” Fleury said. “They’ve been helping a lot with rebounds and blocking shots and all that stuff. I’ve been getting some goal support the last few games, too.”

The Knights were 2-6 all time in Minnesota entering the series and hadn’t won here in regulation. They went 1-3 during the regular season when the Wild finished 21-5-2 at home.

But the Knights scored nine unanswered goals after the first period of Game 3 and handed the Wild their first three-game losing streak of the season.

Alex Tuch and Stone scored in the second period, and Roy added an empty-net goal.

“You want to get better every night and keep playing your best as you move forward,” DeBoer said. “Our game’s been much more solid every period we played from the team perspective. We’re starting to get rewarded offensively because of that. Guys are feeling good.”

The Knights overcame a few early mistakes in their own zone to take a first-period lead for the first time in the series.

Roy cleared the puck away from the front of the net after Fleury was caught behind his net and skated it out of the zone.

He worked a quick give-and-go with Keegan Kolesar through the neutral zone and then ripped a shot over the glove of Wild goalie Cam Talbot for his second career NHL playoff goal at 10:37.

The Wild appeared to answer 19 seconds later when Eriksson Ek shook free from Stone and beat Fleury, who was screened by Marcus Foligno.

But the Knights challenged for goaltender interference, and the NHL’s situation room ruled that Foligno “impaired Marc-Andre Fleury’s ability to play his position in the crease” to nullify the goal.

“Tough call,” Foligno said. “Does that stuff take the wind out of your sails a little bit? I think so. But if it’s goaltender interference, it’s goaltender interference. Got to be better.”

With the crowd of 4,500 still incensed, the Knights took control by scoring on two of their five shots on goal in the second period.

Tuch turned on the jets after picking up the puck in the neutral zone, split the Wild’s defensemen and stickhandled around Talbot’s attempted poke-check for a spectacular goal midway through to put the Knights ahead 2-0.

Stone added a short-handed goal that took the Wild’s spirit with 6:19 remaining in the second.

He pounced on a loose puck when Matt Dumba went down in the offensive zone, outraced Wild defenseman Ryan Suter and tucked a forehand around Talbot for his third goal in the past two games.

“As a whole, we did a great job,” Stone said. “They get that goal, four minutes left in the second period, game looks a lot different 3-1 than going into the third 3-0. Our penalty kill’s been good, but our goalie’s also been really good.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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