ST. PAUL, Minn. — Alex Pietrangelo scored at 1:53 of overtime, giving the Vegas Golden Knights a 3-2 victory on Wednesday after another late rally by the Minnesota Wild.
Alex Tuch, the Wild's first-round draft pick in 2014, set up Pietrangelo with a pass across the slot that let the West Division-leading Golden Knights loosen the race a little. Six of the eight games between these teams were one-goal decisions, a tantalizing potential post-season preview.
“As you get up to the playoffs, everything becomes obviously more competitive. I think this year, too, as teams start funneling more fans into the building, it creates that atmosphere again that really is fun to be a part of," Pietrangelo said.
Said Wild coach Dean Evason: “It was an incredible game. It had everything in it.”
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves and took over sole possession of the No. 3 spot past Roberto Luongo on the NHL’s career wins list with 490.
“I’m pretty honoured to have a chance to play enough and play with such a great team that allowed me to catch him,” said Fleury, who has been on a strict rotation with Robin Lehner.
Chandler Stephenson had a second-period goal and Reilly Smith had the tying score on a power play with 4:16 remaining in regulation for Vegas, after Kirill Kaprizov scored two goals in a 2:10 span for Minnesota. The Wild were upset by the hooking penalty on Mats Zuccarello that preceded Smith's score from the backdoor on a setup from William Karlsson.
“I guess they weren’t looking to call any until Vegas was down,” Wild forward Ryan Hartman said.
The Golden Knights (37-13-2) stretched their lead over the third-place Wild (33-14-5) to five points, with Colorado in between.
The first three spots in the playoffs in the West Division have long been clinched, but the order has stayed up for grabs with the final week of the schedule approaching. The Golden Knights and the Wild have four games remaining, and the Avalanche have five games left after playing later Wednesday at San Jose.
Minnesota finished 5-1-2 against Vegas this season.
“We deserved it. We put a lot of good work in. I’m glad we ended the curse, at least for tonight,” coach Peter DeBoer said.
Roughed up earlier by an opponent desperate to take the Russian rookie off his multi-skilled game, Kaprizov topped himself yet again with another resume builder for the Calder Trophy. After muscling his way behind and around the net, he knocked an airborne pass into the net with 8:47 remaining in regulation. With 6:37 left, Kaprizov spun around after snagging a puck that leaked away from a faceoff and snapped a shot past Fleury for the short-lived lead.
Cam Talbot made 31 saves for the Wild. After giving up five goals over the first two periods on Monday, he stopped all 11 shots against him in the third period of that game.
The Wild stormed back to win 6-5 on Monday with three goals in the third period, including two in the final 92 seconds. The atmosphere in the arena felt a little like the playoffs despite the distanced and limited crowd per virus restrictions.
The other side of such intensity is the natural agitation between the two teams, and the first period of this game was, well, a bloody mess.
There were a combined 30 penalty minutes issued. Golden Knights defencemen Zach Whitecloud and Nicolas Hague were seen bleeding after tussles on the ice, as was Hartman.
After Whitecloud was in a scrum with Kaprizov, Marcus Foligno was so moved to stand up for his teammate he engaged in a furious fight with Hague.
“It’s going to be a heck of a series if we do play these guys right away," Foligno said.
Golden Knights leading scorer Max Pacioretty missed his second straight game with an undisclosed injury, and LW Tomas Nosek was out for the fifth consecutive game. They dressed only 17 skaters.
The Wild's second-leading scorer, LW Kevin Fiala, was a surprise scratch due to a lower-body injury. Evason said it's not serious. Marcus Johansson returned at RW for the Wild after being sidelined for two games for an upper-body injury.
Golden Knights: Return home to face St. Louis on Friday and Saturday.
Wild: Finish their seven-game homestand by hosting Anaheim on Friday and Saturday.
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