MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Wild has come back from a 3-1 deficit to force a Game 7 after beating the Vegas Golden Knights 3-0 Wednesday night at Xcel Energy Center.
It took more than 44 minutes to get goal in a game that got more intense and physical with each period, but the Wild got three of them in an 11-minute span of the third period to head back to Vegas Friday night for a chance to advance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Cam Talbot made 23 saves for his second shutout of the series, and the Wild got goals from Ryan Hartman, Kevin Fiala and Nick Bjugstad.
"From Cam on out, it’s just been that mindset that we’re never out of it. Cam was unbelievable tonight, and everyone just played the right way. That’s what’s great about our team and that’s why we’re in a Game 7 situation," forward Marcus Foligno said.
"The players deserve a lot of credit for believing in each other. That’s been the key from Day 1 with this group. They’ve played hard for each other and they’ve stuck together. Tonight was no different," Wild coach Dean Evason said.
The Wild also survived a big injury scare as Joel Eriksson Ek left the game in the third period, after Fiala’s power play goal, and had to be helped off the ice after hitting his left leg on the post crashing the net. Eriksson Ek went to the locker room to be evaluated, returned a few minutes later and even got on the ice to finish the game.
The Wild took a 1-0 lead at the 4:21 mark of the third on a play started by Zach Parise, a healthy scratch for the first three games of the series. He chipped a puck off the boards that found Fiala, who fed a perfect pass to Hartman for a goal past Marc-Andre Fleury.
It was Hartman’s second goal of the series, and Fiala’s first point in six games.
"It’s only a matter of time. You get enough chances, statistics say it goes in eventually. The one tonight, we finally got a puck past their D on the board and got a 2-on-1 out of it. Kevin made a great play and it went in the back of the net," Hartman said.
Minutes later, the Wild got its biggest break of the series. Chandler Stephenson appeared to score a game-tying goal at the 8:55 mark, but officials waved it off with Alex Tuch in front of Talbot, ruling goaltender interference. The Golden Knights challenged the call, but officials confirmed the goal should not count. Talbot didn’t know what to think.
"I’m always nervous, I never get those calls. The way they’ve been calling them all playoff long, it’d be hard to overturn that. If that one stood, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here right now. I’d just be getting fined," Talbot said.
It looked similar to a goal Eriksson Ek had waved off after Marcus Foligno was called for goaltender interference in Game 4.
"I guess what goes around comes around, right? We hold our breath a little bit, you just never know. It looked similar to the Moose one, so you want consistency and they gave it to us," Evason said.
The Golden Knights’ failed challenge turned into a Wild power play, and Fiala took advantage. He scored off a feed from Jared Spurgeon at the 9:35 mark, with Eriksson Ek screening Fleury, to give the Wild a 2-0 lead. Asked about his first goal of the series after, Fiala said he’s already focused on Game 7.
"Great night for us, but Game 7 is waiting so we have to regroup and go do the same thing. Anything can happen in Game 7, so we’re going to be ready," Fiala said.
The Wild sealed a flight back to Las Vegas at 15:17, with Bjugstad scoring off a perfect feed from Nico Sturm for a 3-0 lead.
After out-shooting the Wild 40-14 on Monday, including 22-1 in the second period, the Wild outshot the Golden Knights 24-23 Wednesday and played arguably their most complete game of the series. It’s the Wild’s first home playoff win of the series, and it’s just the second time in six games the home team leaves the ice victorious.
The Wild has fought back from a 3-1 deficit to force a Game 7, set for 8 p.m. Friday in Las Vegas. They haven’t won a playoff series since beating St. Louis in 2015, and the last time they won a Game 7 was 2014 against the Colorado Avalanche. The Wild is 3-0 all-time in Game 7s.
"We know that we’re in it, we know we can compete, we know we’re going to battle and at the end of the night, we’ll see where we sit," Evason said.