The Wild have an 11-2-3 record all-time during the regular season against the Golden Knights since they entered the NHL. That kind of success can breed confidence, which has been on display during their First Round series.
Vegas came within a tiebreaker of winning the 2020-21 Presidents’ Trophy, but that success wouldn’t intimidate the Wild. Minnesota went 5-1-2 against the Golden Knights during the regular season, including winning five of their last six meetings before the playoffs began.
Their opening round series started with two tight contests, but Vegas moved a win away from the Second Round with 5-2 and 4-0 victories in Games 3 and 4. Facing elimination, the Wild did not back down and fought back with consecutive wins, including a 3-0 shutout in Game 6.
Adversity was not going to force this Wild team to falter.
“We stuck together the whole year,” said Kevin Fiala, who scored a goal and recorded an assist in Game 6. “Doesn’t really matter. Even now, down 3-1 in a series against them, it’s not easy to come back. I have a lot of confidence in my group and guys now just let’s do it.”
Game 7s, of course, send strategies out the window. One of these teams will see their season end Friday night (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN), and the Golden Knights’ earned the opportunity to clinch this series on home ice, something they’ve yet to do in franchise history.
“This is what it’s all about,” said Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer. “This is why you work your [butt] off all season, to have the record you have to host this game in your building and give yourself the best opportunity [to advance].”
DeBoer has plenty of experience in these types of games. He’s 5-0 in Game 7s with victories behind benches in New Jersey and Vegas, and three when he was in San Jose. While two losses in a row may suggest tweaks to the lineup or game plan are in order, he understands that sometimes change isn’t necessary.
“I think when you look back, just [try] not to overreact to the situation,” DeBoer said. “It doesn’t matter how you got here. You’ve got one game in order to advance and you’ve got to find a way to make that your best game for 60 minutes, whatever that looks like.”
Vegas may be forced to make roster changes, however. While Max Pacioretty remains out with an injury, Brayden McNabb, Peyton Krebs and Ryan Reaves are on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols list. If they are not removed by Friday’s evening update, they will miss Game 7.
Minor changes won’t affect either team’s approach. They played 56 regular season games and now six playoff games to get here. Now it comes down to one 60-minute (maybe more?) effort for the chance to play the Avalanche in the Second Round.
“We won two in a row now, but we’ve got to regroup,” said Fiala. “It all starts at zero. We’re going to realize that and have a great start. Anything can happen in Game 7, and we’ll be ready.”
Game 1: Wild 1, Golden Knights 0 (OT)
Game 2: Golden Knights 3, Wild 1
Game 3: Golden Knights 5, Wild 2
Game 4: Golden Knights 4, Wild 0
Game 5: Wild 4, Golden Knights 2
Game 6: Wild 3, Golden Knights 0
Friday, May 28: Wild at Golden Knights, 9 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
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