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Wild loses again in Vegas, but deserved more than it got

Final score not indicative of how tight game was Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

Long-time NFL coach Bill Parcells had a saying that "you are what your record says you are." In the case of the Wild on Wednesday night, a game that finished with a 5-1 margin on the scoreboard, it's certainly not indicative of what the Wild was.

Indeed, the Vegas Golden Knights secured a four-goal win at T-Mobile Arena and yes, Vegas secured victories in each of the two games between the Knights and the Wild this week. 

But it sure seems like Minnesota deserved better than the one of four points it will take on the charter plane to Arizona for a critical back-to-back set starting on Friday night. 

And while that was especially the case on Monday in a game the Wild led into the final minute of regulation, only to cede the tying goal late and the winning goal in overtime, in Wednesday's game, Minnesota was just as competitive and perhaps even more deserving of at least a point than it was two nights earlier.

"Obviously, the outcomes of both games we wanted to be different," said Wild captain Jared Spurgeon. "At the same time, we're worried about ourselves. That's a good team over there, but we're worried about our game and I don't think the score really showed what the game was today, I think it was a lot closer until the end there. 

"I think as a group, we've gotta keep working and fine-tuning our game. We've gotta make teams react to us and not worry about them."

If not for NHL goaltending leader Marc-Andre Fleury, it's entirely likely the Wild would have earned more too. The veteran netminder was nothing short of spectacular on Wednesday night, finishing with 36 saves and stopping the Wild in its tracks at nearly every turn.

There was the mad rush at the end of the first period, where he robbed defenseman Jared Spurgeon with a flashy glove save at the horn. 

There were a number of great passing plays where Wild players had one-timers labeled for the net, only to see Fleury somehow wiggle his body into the path of the puck.

There was the first dozen minutes or so of the third period where the Wild pushed with everything it had to find the equalizer, piling up 18 shots on goal over the first 15 minutes of the frame, only to be denied again and again by Fleury.

Video: MIN@VGK: Foligno jumps on loose puck and scores

Minnesota exerted so much pressure on one third-period power play that Fleury was left to simply sliding around the crease on his pads because he didn't have the time or the energy to get to his feet. 

Somehow, someway, the Wild couldn't find a way to beat the three-time Stanley Cup champion. 

"Not to get goals tonight was frustrating," said Wild coach Dean Evason. "It seemed like every opportunity they got, it was in our net and every opportunity that we got, quality, quality [chances], Fleury seemed to be there or we didn't finish. 

"We did definitely like a lot of parts to our game tonight, to get that many shots. I think end of the day, chances will be very close, if not better for us. We just didn't finish tonight, but our effort was there and we did a lot of good things."

Video: Dean Evason postgame at Vegas

That's the attitude the Wild will take from this series in Vegas. It has to, because the team has little time to dwell on it. Games on consecutive nights await in Arizona beginning on Friday and Saturday nights before a long flight home, and a carbon copy of this week begins again on Monday night when the same Golden Knights come to Xcel Energy Center.

"At the end of the day, one point out of four, could have won the last game, this game, we could have easily tied it 2-2 at the end there with the [power play]," said Wild forward Kevin Fiala. "We just have to take the positives with us and go to the next game."

With how tightly packed the West Division is, the games against Arizona this weekend may be even more crucial to the Wild's postseason hopes than these ones against Vegas.

Obviously, Minnesota believes it has a team capable of challenging for a division title, and its play in Las Vegas the last couple nights has proven it. And the Wild will have its chance to hold serve on home ice next week.

But from a practical standpoint, Arizona looks like a team that will be right there with the Wild at the end as one of a handful of teams jockeying for postseason position.

Colorado and Minnesota are tied with 25 points with 20 games played, but the Coyotes trail both clubs by just two points in the standings. The Wild has two games in hand, but can really put the Coyotes in a tough spot if it can find a way to win a couple games at Gila River Arena over the weekend.

"I think we started a little slower than we did the last game and had to play catchup," Spurgeon said. "Then you have to start taking some chances and that's when they got their opportunities. We have to take the positives that we had [here] and look forward to the next two games."


Postgame Hat Trick: Golden Knights 5, Wild 1

Video: MIN Recap: Foligno scores lone goal in 5-1 loss

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