Minnesota, more than any NHL team, has silenced Knights fans

Updated January 21, 2019 - 9:30 pm

I never totally bought into the concept that styles make fights, other than for boxing commentators to try to sound overly informed.

What your eyes see and mind believes doesn’t always translate to an expected outcome.

You can say the same thing for when the Minnesota Wild cross blue lines with the Golden Knights.

Five games is a small sample size from which to conclude one side has a decisive advantage, but a 4-0-1 record certainly suggests the Wild tend to feel quite comfortable when the sides meet.

Minnesota beat Vegas again Monday, this time by a 4-2 final before an announced gathering of 18,328, when the visitors forechecked any sort of raucous atmosphere right out of T-Mobile Arena.

The Knights’ lone win against Minnesota was a 2-1 shootout road final in this season’s second game, and they needed a one-timer from Max Pacioretty with 1:31 left in regulation just to rally for extra opportunity.

The Wild, as much as any opponent dating to last year’s Vegas expansion debut, has taken the fire from a home crowd that has played such an enormous part in its team’s success.

Minnesota and its not-so-exciting style of play has silenced the siren, decreased the decibel, deadened the Drumbots.

Children don’t even seem to smile at Chance when these guys are in town, and it’s not totally because the Wild put them to sleep.

“On the road, against most anyone, but especially here, it’s beneficial to keep the crowd out of it,” said Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, who was terrific in stopping all but two of 32 shots. “If you’re allowing them to fly up and down the ice, it’s going to get a lot louder. You have to give the crowd a reason not to make noise, and we did that.

“I don’t think being (4-0-1) against them tells the entire story. They have all been great hockey games. We just happen to be on the right side of it. They’re certainly challenging games. It’s not like it’s a cakewalk.”

Do you know what Monday was?

It was a team in the Wild fighting to remain in a playoff position against one in the Knights that sits 10 points clear of the next closest side pursuing the postseason.

It was a hungry team against one that appeared overfed.

It was one side wanting the two points a whole lot more than the other.

It was desperate against dispirited.

“They have a lot of speed and you have to be on your toes all the time and get pucks on net when you get in close,” said Wild forward Jason Zucker. “We have to clog up the neutral zone against these guys. If you don’t let them make plays by skating free, it’s going to be a tough night for them.”

Faking out Schmidt

It will never again be the first time playing in T-Mobile Arena for Zucker, but the player who grew up in Las Vegas understands as well as anyone how significant an edge teams can create by silencing the faithful here.

He nearly did so himself at 16:54 of the first period with a move around Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt, faking the latter out of his skates, pants, sweater and helmet before hitting the post on a shot goalie Marc-Andre Fleury would have had no chance at stopping.

I mean, Schmidt is still spinning from that one.

Zucker has also watched from afar how the game has grown in Las Vegas, perhaps not as surprised as most at the fact a Golden Knights Pee-Wee AA team will participate in the prestigious Quebec International Tournament next month.

“The first time playing here (last season) was really special,” said Zucker. “(Monday) was cool. It’s always nice to have some family and friends here. A lot of them helped me out and bought their own tickets this time.

“I don’t think people give Vegas enough credit for its youth hockey prior to the Knights. Now, with them, it has been elevated even more, which is great to see.”

The Knights didn’t play well enough Monday and the Wild played, well, like the Wild has now for five games against Vegas.

Five games, four wins, one shootout loss.

“I don’t think you can compare all the games,” said Wild center Mikko Koivu, who scored his 200th goal with Minnesota.

A subdued T-Mobile Arena suggests otherwise.

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact columnist Ed Graney 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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