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Lack of scoring, not Wild, in heads of Golden Knights

It’s fairly common knowledge that my wife is an enormous Golden Knights fan. She even tempts me to spontaneously combust by texting weird hockey emojis and nicknames during games.

I’ve come a close a few times. My colleagues can attest.

So it happened that she offered this opinion after the team’s Game 1 playoff loss to Minnesota on Sunday: “I think the Wild are definitely in their heads.”

I don’t. I think the Knights are in their own.

You bet. It has become a playoff trend.

Can’t score, can’t win

It’s not as if a 1-0 overtime loss to open a divisional round best-of-seven series is the first time we have seen the Knights struggle to score once the postseason commences. Hardly.

Whether it be shots or shots on goal or the almighty expected goals metric, the Knights in their past several playoff series have often generated more chances than opponents. And, more often than not, lost those games.

But the idea one side plants itself in the heads of another at this level is more a reach than suggesting Minnesota gained any sense of momentum by winning Game 1.

The Knights could dominate the first period Tuesday night much as they did Sunday and yet actually depart the first 20 minutes with a lead.

The series could change faster than Raiders tight end Darren Waller cranked the T-Mobile siren Sunday. Which, by the way, wasn’t all that fast.

“Obviously, it’s frustrating at times,” Knights forward Alex Tuch said. “But we know why we’re here. We know the type of team we have, and we have to stay confident in our room.

“As frustrating as it is, I think we have the ability to stay confident and stay poised and to really not let it get to our heads. I guess I do believe in (things) evening out. You know what? Maybe pucks will bounce our way a little bit more (Tuesday), but you make your own bounces, especially in the playoffs.”

There is belief during a college basketball season that it’s difficult to beat a team three times — twice during the regular season and again in a conference tournament. It isn’t. Not if you’re better.

Same holds here, which makes these struggles against the Wild perplexing.

The Knights are the more talented side. That’s not to say Minnesota can’t win the series — some might even consider it a favorite now after gaining home-ice advantage — but it won’t be because of a more capable roster.

None of that, however, has stopped Minnesota from being 5-0-1 in the past six meetings and the league’s most successful team against the Knights since the 2017 expansion season.

“That’s a hell of a team over there,” Wild forward Mats Zuccarello said.

Solve the issues

Then it better begin solving those issues that have been obvious when facing this opponent: That the Knights are playing a team not known for blowing coverages or cheating for the sake of offense. That there won’t be as much middle ice in which to maneuver. That they need to finish whatever real scoring chances Minnesota’s defense and goalie Cam Talbot might allow.

Or at least a few of them.

At least more than, well, zero.

“We saw in the first period (Sunday) the way they come out and that they’re a hungry team,” Minnesota forward Marcus Foligno said. “But we have a chance to go up 2-0 in the series, so we should be playing desperate and hungry, too. I feel like it’s going to be more of the same that we saw in Game 1.”

The Knights did enough to win Sunday and fell short. So it can’t be more of the same when it comes to offense. Because that could mean heading to Minnesota down two games.

And if that happens, it won’t matter who’s in anyone’s head.

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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