Playing against the Minnesota Wild can be an excruciating experience similar to visiting the dentist.
It’s something that can’t be avoided, but it’s slow and painful and usually can’t end soon enough.
The Golden Knights were reminded of that fact Tuesday but made it through their appointment without any major damage.
Shea Theodore scored the go-ahead goal with 10 seconds remaining in the second period as the Knights grinded out a 3-2 victory over the Wild at T-Mobile Arena.
“They’re a physical team,” Theodore said. “I thought they made it hard for us tonight, but I think we were pretty resilient and we played well.”
Chandler Stephenson and Tomas Nosek also scored for the Knights, who won their third straight and moved into second place in the Pacific Division.
Mark Stone added two assists and William Carrier also had an assist for his career-high 10th point.
Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 24 saves for his 453rd career victory, one behind Curtis Joseph for sixth all time. It was his fourth victory in 13 career appearances against Minnesota.
Zach Parise scored with 1:15 remaining in the third period for the Wild, who played without former Las Vegas resident Jason Zucker, the team’s second-leading scorer.
The Knights beat the Wild for the first time in four tries at T-Mobile Arena and improved to 2-5 overall.
“I think we’ve been able to put full games together, a few in a row. It’s a good feeling,” Fleury said. “They’re a tough team, and they don’t give you too much. But I thought the guys fought hard to create some chances.”
Here’s what stood out from the Knights’ win:
1. Second line clicks
The move to put Stephenson on the second line raised a couple of eyebrows based on his track record (33 points in 168 career NHL games with Washington) and the presence of veteran center Paul Stastny, who is making $6.5 million.
But Stephenson continues to make coach Gerard Gallant look smart. He converted on a 2-on-1 with Stone for the tying goal in the second period and has five points in eight games with the Knights after totaling four points in 24 appearances with Washington.
Stephenson extended his point streak to four games, while Pacioretty and Stone have points in five straight games.
“Obviously, it’s not just me. It’s my linemates,” Stephenson said. “I’ve been saying it a lot lately, but they’re All-Stars. They make the game easy and make my job easy. On my goal I really didn’t have to do too much. (Stone) made a hell of a play.”
2. Stick with it
Minnesota turned the first period into a traffic jam, limiting the Knights’ chances on offense. The Wild had three shots on goal through the first 16 minutes before Mats Zuccarello and Eric Staal played catch behind the net during a 5-on-3, and Zuccarello eventually buried a cross-crease feed for a 1-0 lead.
But the Knights remained patient and broke through for two goals in the second period before Nosek buried the eventual winner at 6:16 of the third.
The Knights improved to 5-10-4 when their opponent scores first and 4-8-0 when trailing after the first period.
“I loved our win tonight. It was a gritty win. It was different from a lot of our other wins,” Gallant said. “We battled back and didn’t get upset about the penalties, we just kept going and kept playing and working hard.”
3. Feisty Engelland
Defenseman Deryk Engelland is yet to have a fight during the regular season during his time with the Knights, but he was ready to go full Patrick Swayze in “Road House” against the Wild.
Engelland took on two Wild players during a second-period scrum that started when he and Staal bumped into each other on the way to the benches.
Minnesota was upset with Engelland after he delivered a series of cross-checks to Staal in front of the Knights’ net midway through the second.
“He was buzzing out there,” Carrier said of Engelland. “He had a few good cross-checks. He used to be really tough. People kind of forget about that.”