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Column: Closing out series not strength of Golden Knights

ST. PAUL, Minn. — I’m thinking in other lives, a majority of Golden Knights players weren’t the closer types when it came to selling cars. Not sure you’d want them discussing those financing options that either seals or kills a deal.

Consistency is most always a valued trait in sports, but not this kind: The Knights on Friday head to Game 7 of a playoff series for the third time in as many seasons after losing all of a 3-1 advantage.

It’s the Minnesota Wild who rallied back this time, the capper a 3-0 victory in Game 6 on Wednesday of this divisional playoff at Xcel Energy Center.

It means the series will be decided in T-Mobile Arena, which will host a Game 7 for the first time.

The puck is scheduled to drop at 6 p.m. on Friday, which means it will be 6:15, with the winner receiving a trip to Colorado to open a second-round matchup.

“It’s a new year and (the past) doesn’t really matter,” Knights forward Reilly Smith said. “It’s an opportunity to come out in your home arena with all your fans excited and full of emotion.”

Waiting on others

Feeling things out. Waiting for the other to make a critical mistake. Call it whatever you want, the Knights and Wild spent an opening two periods Wednesday playing as if whichever scored first would immediately be declared the winner.

It was a Game 6 with Game 7 nerves.

It’s not something the Knights would ever admit, the idea they weren’t in constant push mode. But while Minnesota and its plug-the-middle style again helped dictate such things, the Knights skated off after a final horn having taken just 23 shots.

They weren’t pushing that hard.

They challenged another call, this time disagreeing there was goaltender interference by forward Alex Tuch that disallowed a Chandler Stephenson score that would have tied the game 1-1 with just over 11 minutes left.

It was both correct to challenge and chance having to kill off a penalty and yet the call was never going to be overturned.

Not after the Wild had a score taken off the board in Game 4 via a similar call.

But when finding the net was proving so incredibly difficult, it was worth the risk. Then the Wild scored on the ensuing power play and that was that.

It will be interesting to learn if many of those game-time decisions that have defined the Knights lineup this series are handled differently Friday.

Head coach Pete DeBoer said Wednesday morning that injured forward Max Pacioretty, who hasn’t played since May 1, was back skating. Whatever that really means.

Tomas Nosek missed another game Wednesday. Ryan Reaves was out. Brayden McNabb was scratched after the defenseman entered the league’s COVID protocol.

But nothing screams all-blades-on-deck like a Game 7.

“This is what it’s all about, what you work your ass off for all season and to have the record you have,” DeBoer said. “To host (Game 7) in your building and give yourself the best opportunity.”

Meanwhile, out in Colorado, the Avalanche sit and wait for whichever survives.

It’s never simple

Colorado has been off since sweeping St. Louis from these playoffs and the last thing you would think its next opponent wants is all that speed and skill resting its legs before welcoming someone to altitude.

The Avalanche fly, brother, and it’s even more impressive at a Mile High.

First things first. Way first.

The Knights had a chokehold on this series days ago. Come Friday, they’ll try and finish off the Wild once and for all instead of heading to an off-season while, well, grabbing their own necks.

“It’s not disbelief,” Knights captain Mark Stone said. “We believe in ourselves and our team. We have one game in our home rink to move on. It’s that simple.”

Maybe, but closing things out never is simple with these guys.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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