Minnesota Wild on brink of elimination after Game 4 shutout

Minnesota Wild goalie Cam Talbot looks on during a break in action in the first period of Game 4 on Saturday in St. Paul.(Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Minnesota Wild goalie Cam Talbot looks on during a break in action in the first period of Game 4 on Saturday in St. Paul.(Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

With a shutout loss to Vegas on Saturday night, the Minnesota Wild are now down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series and heading back to Vegas on the brink of elimination.

There was reasonable confidence that when the Wild returned to the Xcel Energy Center for Games 3 and 4, they would perform well—just as they had during the regular season. The Wild had secured a victory in 21 of 27 regular season games (.786 winning percentage)—the best home record in the club’s 20-year history.

Though there’s a temptation for Wild fans to turn their attention to the subpar performance of the referees on Saturday evening, the Wild have still been unsuccessful in finding the back of the net. Marc Andre-Fleury stopped 35 shots, with the exception of Joel Eriksson Ek’s goal that was overturned for goaltender interference.

Here’s some thoughts after the Game 4 loss

NHL referees

It’s no secret that the referees in the NHL have been lackluster the past few years, to say the least. It could even be argued that the consistency of calls has dwindled since the postseason began. However, this is not the only reason why the Wild have fallen short in three straight games against Vegas.

Even if Eriksson Ek’s goal did count on Saturday night, that’s still, well, just a single goal. That’s clearly not enough to win a game where Vegas scored four. There’s certainly something to be said for momentum shifts in Eriksson Ek’s goal being recalled, but the success of the team cannot be contingent upon a single play early on in the game.

Marc-Andre Fleury

The Golden Knights veteran goalie  showed up again Saturday evening, completing his 16th playoff shutou. That ties  Curtis Joseph for the third-most shutouts in playoff history. The only two who have more are Martin Brodeur (24) and Patrick Roy (23).

The Wild have scored four times in four games against the 36-year-old, averaging one goal per game. Not only is this hardly enough to win a game when the opponent can’t score but Vegas has scored 12 times.

The path to a Game 5 victory isn’t clear, and it’ll be interesting to see what Evason decides to do in order to bring the series back to St. Paul. Facing elimination, this will not be an easy task.

The Wild have had several grade-A opportunities in virtually every game this postseason between Kevin Fiala, Kirill Kaprisov, and Joel Eirksson Ek.

Fleury has  just been better.

Knights have the series momentum but …

It’s not impossible for the Wild to crawl back into this.

The San Jose Sharks mounted an impressive comeback from a 3-1 series deficit against the Golden Knights back in 2019. It was perhaps one of the greatest comebacks in NHL playoff history, and the one in net for Vegas? Marc Andre-Fleury.

If it can happen once, it can happen again.

ST. PAUL, MN – MAY 22: Cam Talbot #33 of the Minnesota Wild looks on against the Vegas Golden Knights in the first period in Game Four of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Xcel Energy Center on May 22, 2021 in St Paul, Minnesota. The Golden Knights defeated the Wild 4-0. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Imageshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU4iucnuYNg&ab_channel=Mr.BO55Mr.BO55