After seven grueling games between the second and third seeds in the Honda West Division, the Vegas Golden Knights win their first round series over the Minnesota Wild with a 6-2 win on Friday night. It’s been a series that’s been filled with twists and turns and the series has been as good as the regular season hyped it up to be.
Game One To Four: The Flower Blooming
The first four games were with two major focal points. The first and biggest was the goaltending duel within the series between Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Talbot. Both had a fantastic first round series, where they made a ton of phenomenal stops. In the first game, the Wild won 1-0 after an overtime winner by Joel Eriksson-Ek in a game where Talbot had 40 saves and Fleury made some absolute stellar saves on Ryan Hartman especially.
Game two was once again a goaltender battle where the Wild outplayed the Golden Knights for a majority of the game but was defeated in large parts to Fleury stealing the game with 34 saves on 35 shots on net. Most of them were prime scoring chances. In game 4, Fleury even had a shutout in 4-0 win to give the Golden Knights a series lead of 3-1.
However, in game three and four and partly the ending of game two, the second talking point outside of the stellar play of Fleury was the referees. A lot of calls went the Golden Knights way, and the Wild fans especially felt robbed of chances to turn the game and series around.
The most apparent example of this was in game four when Eriksson-Ek tied the game for the Wild less than 30 seconds after Vegas had taken the lead. However, a very controversial review saw that the skate of Marcus Foligno was slightly in the blue paint. The contact was initiated by Fleury, but it was enough to overturn the goal.
This wasn’t even Eriksson-Ek’s only goal to be overturned in the series. In game three most, of the Minnesota Wild fans thought he had given them a 3-0 led midway through the first period, but a very close offside call overturned the goal and swung momentum to Vegas, who finished up a great comeback in the second and third period.
The last controversial call was in game two where Wild superstar and the front runner to win the Calder Kirill Kaprizov got a tripping minor with less than two minutes remaining in a one-goal game. This penalty essentially iced the game and won the game for Vegas.
The penalty itself was fair, but it sparked controversy because of the lack of penalties throughout the game and lack of consistency towards what was allowed. The theme of questionable refereeing stayed in the next few games, where a lot of the calls seemed to go the way of the Golden Knights.
Game Five And Six: The Resurgence Of The Wild
Down 3-1 and going back to Vegas for game five, it seemed like the Golden Knights had things locked up and it was only a formality that they could get ready to play the Colorado Avalanche in the second round. In game five at home in the T-Mobile Arena, Mark Stone made it 1-0 after just eight minutes of the game and it had an element of a killing blow to it.
However, one character from the Wild this season has been their ability to come back and never give up, and once again they showed fantastic morals. Less than a minute later Kaprizov finally got on the scoreboard in the series with a goal, and this started a blitz of three goals in seven minutes for the Wild to grind them to a 4-2 win.
With game six at home, things were wide open once again in a physical and grinding game. With Talbot in net who shut out the Golden Knights and Kevin Fiala putting his mark on the game in the third period, the Wild were able to tie the series at three apiece with a 3-0 victory.
It is worth mentioning that the Golden Knights had a goal disallowed after video review similar to the Wild in game four. With the Wild up by one, Chandler Stephenson fired a shot from the blueline with a heavy screen from Alex Tuch and made its way into the net. However their was slight contact and therefore the goal was waived off. To make matters worse for the Golden Knights, Pete DeBoer challenged the call on the ice but lost, which led to the powerplay where Fiala was able to double the lead for the Wild.
Game Seven: Hattrick Hero
Despite the valiant effort from the Wild, it was eventually to no avail. In game seven, Vegas showed their quality with the help of an unlikely hero. Things were close in the first 26 minutes of the game, where the Wild had tied the game up twice. But, goals from Max Pacioretty and Zach Whitecloud in the second gave the Golden Knights a perfect foundation for the third period.
In the third period, a hat trick performance from Mattias Janmark iced the game and finally gave Vegas the series win. The Golden Knights dominated the final half of the game, and nothing can be said to the win in game seven at all. It was all Vegas and they can now prepare for a series against a rested Avalanche team.
Closing Remarks On The Vegas Golden Knights Win
It was a wonderful series to watch with a lot of key players and storylines, with the winner being the favorites. However, it was far from as easy as most expected and the Wild can be proud of how far they took a team like the Knights in a season where they weren’t tipped for much.
Up next for the Golden Knights is the Avalanche, in a series where the Golden Knights have to try and come out fast and furious to catch them with a bit of rust after a long break, in another very interesting series in the Honda West Division.
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