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Wild can't hold late lead, but proves win streak was no fluke

Six-game stretch of winning hockey is over, but Minnesota capable of starting anew

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

The Wild learned a couple of valuable lessons against the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday.

The first is why the Vegas Golden Knights, like the Colorado Avalanche before them, are considered by many to be among the favorites to play for a Stanley Cup from the West Division. 

The second is that defending a lead against a team like Vegas is a bit of a different animal than some of the other clubs Minnesota has faced through the first month and a half of the regular season.

And the third is that - if it wasn't clear before the game, it is now - the Wild certainly has the game to compete and win the West Division. 

Minnesota led for a bulk of the second half of the contest on Monday, but couldn't defend a two-goal lead in the third period in an eventual 5-4 overtime loss to division-leading Vegas at T-Mobile Arena. 

The defeat snapped Minnesota's season-long six game winning streak in heartbreaking fashion, but provides a window into just how close things are among the top teams in the West.

Video: Players postgame at Vegas

"I think we just let off the gas a little bit," said Wild forward Marcus Foligno. "Give credit to their top line, they made good plays, they didn't really chip it in, they did a good job carrying the puck in and sustaining pressure. 

"But we're still a good enough team to hang onto leads like that and get the win. It's unfortunate, but we've gotta be more aggressive, stay with our game and we got away from it a little bit. And that's a team that can make you pay."

After a scoreless first period, the Wild exploded for four even-strength goals in the second period, twice answering Golden Knights power play goals in quick succession.

Video: MIN@VGK: Foligno jams home puck past Fleury

Cody Glass scored the game's opening goal, but Minnesota answered with two goals in 66 seconds. 

Jordan Greenway put home a quick rebound of his own shot before Foligno scored his first of two goals, getting a fortunate bounce from his backside when Jonas Brodin's point shot bounced in off of his knee. 

Video: MIN@VGK: Greenway cleans up own rebound in front

Max Pacioretty tied it a few minutes later, only to see the Wild score twice in the span of 16 seconds to push its lead to two goals. 

Nick Bonino gave the Wild the lead back with his second goal of the campaign. Foligno assisted on the goal before sniping a beauty under the crossbar on the very next shift to make it 4-2.

"I think we're doing a lot of the right things," Bonino said. "Every line has defended pretty well and allowed us to get out of our zone and play some offense. For the most part -there are some nice goals - but I think a lot of these goals are just getting to the net, getting traffic, getting bounces and I think those are the ones you need sometimes."

Video: MIN@VGK: Bonino lifts wrist shot past Fleury

Both goals came in the final 2:07 of the period, putting the Wild in a strong position to close it out.

Then, for the first 11-plus minutes of the third period, Minnesota looked like it was on its way to doing just that, doing a nearly perfect job defending its lead, surrendering not even a shot on goal as Vegas attempted a rally.

Eventually, that tide turned, however, and when it did, it was simply too much for the Wild to slow.

Video: MIN@VGK: Foligno wires home a wrister

"They're obviously a good team. They clearly pushed hard," said Wild coach Dean Evason. "We got back on our heels a little bit. Momentum shifted a little bit. It happens in a game. We've been on the other side of it but it went the other way tonight."

Nicolas Hague made it 4-3 with 7:20 left in regulation and from there on, the game was played almost exclusively in the Wild zone.

Goaltender Cam Talbot made a number of high-quality saves during that stretch, but eventually, the pressure paid off. 

"It seems like every time you play in Vegas, whether you have a lead or they have a lead, they come out in the third and they really come at you," Bonino said. "It's really hard to play against them. 

"We are good enough to handle that. We've been on the other end, we've been down a couple times in the third and come back to win. We'll definitely learn from this, we'll take a look at it tomorrow then come back stronger."

With goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on the bench for the extra attacker, one-time Wild first-round draft pick Alex Tuch re-directed a perfect pass from Mark Stone over Talbot's shoulder in front, tying the game with 41 seconds and change showing on the clock. 

Video: Dean Evason postgame at Vegas

Minnesota pushed it to the extra session, extending its points streak to seven games, but never really threatened like it had in four perfect overtimes prior to Monday. Vegas won the opening draw and spent the first minute of OT in the Wild end. 

Kirill Kaprizov hopped over the boards and helped Minnesota control possession for a minute but the Wild was never able to get a shot on goal. 

Then a turnover and a missed change allowed Vegas a 2-on-1 rush, where a patient Stone found Pacioretty all alone in front for a quick redirect. For Stone, the newly-minted Vegas captain, it was his fifth primary assist of the game. 

"I thought we played a really good game," Evason said. "Obviously there are waves; we pushed, they pushed. The start of the game was a real feeling-out process.

"I thought our group conducted themselves extremely well. Obviously we didn't get the job done but we did a lot of real, real good things in this hockey game."


Postgame Hat Trick: Golden Knights 5, Wild 4 (OT)

Video: MIN Recap: Wild earn a point in OT defeat

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