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Wild tamed by Golden Knights after another beastly start

The Minnesota Wild looked in the first period like every bit the beast defenseman Matt Dumba promised his team would resemble once the series shifted back to St. Paul for Game 3.

Then they turned into more of a sleeping beauty in the second as they surrendered a 2-0 deficit and fell behind the Golden Knights 2-1 in a best-of-seven series with a 5-2 loss on Thursday night.

“Everything,” Wild forward Ryan Hartman said of what changed. “We left (goaltender Cam Talbot) out to dry a little bit, or a lot bit. We gave them everything.

”We had no possession, no work ethic, no battle. We let them dictate play. We got away from our game and gave them everything.”

The dramatic turnaround wasn’t just on the scoreboard. The numbers backed up how much the game flipped after the first 20 minutes.

After the Knights tied a season-low with just four shots on goal in the first period, they outshot Minnesota 22-5 in the second. The Knights got 17 scoring chances in the second and allowed just seven.

“Our first period was as good as it gets,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “Their second was as good as it gets.”

Evason said one of the biggest issues for his team was the penalties. While the Wild were able to kill off all five power plays, the 10 minutes of short-handed time not only got Minnesota out of any rhythm, but it put a strain on the penalty-killers and wreaked havoc on the rotation.

“We got frustrated,” he said. “They pushed and we really shot ourselves.”

The Wild have lost two straight games in the series despite leading in both. Defenseman Ian Cole believes Thursday’s collapse will provide an opportunity to make an honest evaluation of what Minnesota has to do in order to come back and win the series.

“It wasn’t for a lack of trying, but they saw how the first period went and they adjusted and played a little harder,” he said. “We need to match that intensity.” It was a couple little things here and there.

“It wasn’t terrible, but it also clearly wasn’t good enough. Hopefully we can step back and look at the second and third period objectively to see what went wrong and what went right in the first.”

The Wild also could have an extra cushion had their third goal of the first period not been overturned because of an offside ruling as a result of a challenge by the Knights.

“Of course, it would have been a great goal for us to have,” said forward Joel Eriksson Ek, who scored on the play. “But the last two periods we have to battle even harder and work our (expletive) off to get to the bounces and create our chances. When we play our best, we stay aggressive.”

Evason wants to make sure his team doesn’t panic. He knows the Wild have played well enough in stretches to have won every game so far, yet they are trailing.

There’s no use thinking about where they could stand in the series had things broken differently.

“It’s 2-1. That’s it,” he said. “We’re looking forward to Game 4.”

Evason’s team very likely may have to try to win that one without forward Marcus Johansson, who left the game after being taken into the net by William Karlsson.

“I don’t have an official comment on it, but it doesn’t look good,” Evason said.

His absence appeared to be another factor in the Wild’s struggles as they finished the game with 11 forwards.

It’s possible Zach Parise will draw into the lineup for the first time in the series for Game 4 on Saturday at 5 p.m.

“I think everyone is aware of the situation we’re in and how crucial Game 4 is to the series,” Cole said. “There’s no secret recipe. It’s just a matter of will. We need to get the job done.”

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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