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Golden Knights don’t back down from Wild in physical encounter

Updated May 6, 2021 - 2:19 pm

Compared to the tables-ladders-and-chairs match that took place in New York on Wednesday, the first period between the Golden Knights and Minnesota Wild was a subdued affair.

But there was still plenty of nastiness at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The teams combined for 30 penalty minutes in the opening period before order was restored in the Knights’ 3-2 overtime victory.

“You’ve got two teams that are potentially going to see each other in the playoffs potentially seven times,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “I don’t think anyone wants to take a step back from anybody and send the wrong message. That was just the case in the first. I liked how we stuck together.”

The pushing and shoving started five minutes in after a save by Marc-Andre Fleury and continued a minute later when defenseman Alec Martinez battled with Minnesota’s Joel Eriksson Ek after the whistle.

After defenseman Nic Hague drove Wild rookie standout Kirill Kaprizov into the boards in front of the Knights bench, violence ensued at the 9:44 mark.

Kaprizov tangled with Zach Whitecloud and scored a single-leg takedown, then bloodied the Knights defenseman with ground and pound from the top position. Kaprizov originally was assessed a major penalty before it was reduced to a minor after video review.

Meanwhile, Marcus Foligno chased after Hague, and the two eventually fought with 3:05 remaining in the period.

It was Hague’s first fight in the NHL, and he held his own against the 6-foot-3-inch, 223-pound Foligno, who has more than 40 fighting majors in his career.

“I thought Nic Hague did a great job,” DeBoer said. “That’s a big, tough guy that he’s taking on there, and he did a fantastic job.”

In the final minute, defenseman Brayden McNabb exchanged jabs in front of the net with Ryan Hartman and dropped the Wild forward with a left.

When the period ended, there were six roughing penalties, two bloody noses and one fight. The Knights finished with 17 minutes in penalties but weren’t penalized in the final two periods or overtime.

“Nobody backed down,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “I think up and down lineup we all stood up the way we had to with what they were trying to do, the way they were trying to play. We all stuck up for each other, which is obviously great.”

Here are three more takeaways from the win:

1. Double redemption

The Knights had a power play in the third period Monday with a chance to put away the game, and their inability to convert proved costly. This time, they came through with the man advantage at a crucial time.

Reilly Smith buried a feed from William Karlsson with one second remaining on a power play to tie the score 2-2 with 4:16 remaining. The Knights registered 10 shots attempts (two on goal) before the goal, which was Smith’s first since April 9.

“Pucks were bouncing, and we were kind of misreading some plays earlier in the game on the power play,” Smith said. “It seemed like our first unit went out there with a different mindset on the start of that power play and really got pucks to the net, created a lot of opportunities. I think us being able to jump out second and use that momentum and keep funneling pucks to the net gave us that opportunity.”

In the overtime, Pietrangelo shanked a pass from Jonathan Marchessault on a two-on-one rush. But he got a chance moments later when Alex Tuch made a no-look feed to set up the winning goal.

“We were frustrated, but I don’t think any of us felt like we were out of the game even with a couple minutes left,” Pietrangelo said. “It’s impressive that our group stayed calm throughout that because a team can kind of go sideways through that, but I think the boys obviously stuck together.”

2. Help from Sharks

The two points the Knights pocketed against Minnesota became even more important later Wednesday when San Jose did its bitter rival a favor and knocked off Colorado 3-2.

With four games remaining, the Knights lead the West Division by four points over the Avalanche and would guarantee home-ice advantage in the first round with a win over St. Louis on Friday and a Minnesota loss. Colorado has one game in hand.

“I like that we faced a little bit of adversity and we got through that,” Pietrangelo said. “That’s a good sign here moving forward at this time of the year.”

The Knights remained undefeated (8-0) in games decided in overtime and snapped a five-game losing skid to Minnesota. The Wild lost at home for the third time in regulation (17-3-1) since Jan. 31.

“It looked like the same story as the other night. But I loved our response,” DeBoer said. “We were better tonight. We deserved to win tonight. We put a lot of good work in. We ended the curse, at least for tonight.”

3. Kirill the Thrill

The Wild are never out of a game with Kaprizov roaming the ice, and the Knights learned that lesson for a potential playoff series against Minnesota.

The 24-year-old from Russia, who had the tying goal in Minnesota’s come-from-behind victory Monday, tallied twice in 2:10 to put the Wild ahead 2-1 in the third period. His effort on the go-ahead goal, when he won a puck battle off a faceoff and snapped a shot past Fleury, was another highlight for his Calder Trophy campaign video.

Kaprizov leads all first-year players with 26 goals and 47 points, including six goals and eight points in eight games against the Knights.

“Kaprizov’s a hell of a player,” DeBoer said. “That’s probably the No. 1 thing you take out of these two games is you can’t let up for a second on him or he’s going to find a way to put a puck in the net. Particularly in the third period.”

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

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