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How Golden Knights turned a win into a loss in Minnesota

Updated May 4, 2021 - 3:47 pm

The Golden Knights are 24-2-0 when leading after two periods.

The losses have come against the Minnesota Wild … and the Minnesota Wild. The latest came in stunning fashion Monday night at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, and continued the Knights’ rotten results in the building.

They led 5-3 halfway through the third period and 5-4 in the final two minutes before losing 6-5. The Knights fell to 1-6-0 all time in Minnesota, with their win coming in a shootout.

A lot of things had to go wrong to make their latest loss possible. But they did, and the Knights dropped critical points with five games remaining in the regular season.

“We’ve got to seal the deal,” captain Mark Stone said. “Got to keep playing for the entire game.”

One of the most stunning things about the Knights’ loss is how well they played for most of the third period. They opened the period with a 5-3 lead and gave up only two shots on goal in the first 10 minutes.

Even after right wing Kevin Fiala brought the Wild to within a goal with 9:11 remaining, the Knights appeared to be in good shape. Minnesota didn’t put another shot on goal for seven minutes. Yet once the Wild did, things started to unravel quickly.

It started with a botched breakout in the Knights’ end. Defenseman Brayden McNabb sent the puck up the left wall to right wing Reilly Smith, but it took a hard bounce and caromed toward the middle of the zone. It went past center William Karlsson and to Fiala, who fired a shot on net from the high slot.

The puck rebounded hard off goaltender Robin Lehner’s pads to his right, where rookie Kirill Kaprizov was waiting. No one tied him up, so he had a wide-open net for his 24th goal.

“Bad rebound,” Lehner said. “I’ve got to figure out my rebounds lately.”

The Wild needed 26 seconds to score again. Defenseman Jonas Brodin received the puck in the left corner of the offensive zone, his left skate touching the blue line. He fired a slap shot with traffic in front of Lehner, and the puck got through. Stone, defenseman Alec Martinez and Minnesota forwards Joel Eriksson Ek and Jordan Greenway (who is 6 feet 6) stood between the puck and the goal, and there appeared to be a deflection when it went in.

The sequence of events gave the Knights one of their most stunning losses of the season in a building that never has been kind to them. What makes it worse for them is that by losing in regulation Monday and seeing their West Division lead slip to two points, they’re more likely to face the Wild in the first round of the NHL playoffs.

“There’s always teams that you have matchup issues with,” Knights coach Pete DeBoer said. “Sometimes it’s not even the rosters, or the way they play isn’t a mismatch, it’s just a team is in another team’s head mentally, and for us, you’ve got to fight through that. And I’m confident we will.”

Here are three more takeaways from the loss:

1. Less than a full deck

The Knights played with only 17 skaters.

It’s the fifth time this season they’ve dressed less than the normal 18 and the second time against the Wild. The Knights are 0-4-1 in those games.

They were missing left wing Max Pacioretty, center Tomas Nosek and right wing Ryan Reaves.

“We’ve got some guys out of the lineup right now,” Stone said. “Some key guys. It’d be nice to have (Reaves) in the lineup. I think they’ll feel a little different when big 75’s out there. I don’t think there will be as much chirping.”

2. Five-on-three first

The Knights handed the Wild a five-on-three power play in the second period when McNabb went to the penalty box for cross checking and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo followed him 37 seconds later.

The Wild scored in 23 seconds on a goal from forward Nick Bonino. It was Minnesota’s first five-on-three goal this season and the first the Knights have allowed.

3. Stats of note

Some other interesting notes:

— The Knights fell to second in the race for the Jennings Trophy, awarded annually to the goalies on the team that give up the fewest goals in the league. They’ve allowed 114 in 51 games (2.24 per game). The New York Islanders have allowed 116 in 52 (2.23).

— Left wing Jonathan Marchessault scored his fifth goal in five games in the second period. He also has four assists in that span.

— Stone scored his 21st goal in the second period on his only shot. His 23.6 shooting percentage is fourth among skaters with at least 30 shots on goal.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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