The Vegas Golden Knights might have the home-ice advantage for Friday night’s Game 7 but the the Minnesota Wild have the series momentum.
Minnesota looked prime for another first-round flameout after a shutout loss in Game 4 but responded with two straight victories to force the series to a winner-take-all scenario.
The Wild managed to escape Vegas with a 4-2 win on Monday despite being outshot 40-14 and then broke open what was a tight-checking and scoreless game through two periods with three goals in the third in Game 6.
“We just keep plowing, keep working hard,” Wild forward Marcus Foligno said in a postgame media conference over Zoom on Wednesday. “We know we have the firepower to get goals in the net and the work ethic is always there. That’s what’s great about our team and why we are in a Game 7 situation.”
The winner travels to Colorado on Sunday for the start of a best-of-seven series against an Avalanche team that is coming off a sweep of St. Louis.
The Wild have been in a Game 7 three times previously in the team’s history — all on the road — and came out on top on each occasion. Two came in the run to the Western Conference Finals in 2003 and the last e in 2014.
The Wild have four players on the roster who played in that most recent game — Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon — an overtime matchup at Colorado that was decided by former Wild fan favorite Nino Niederreiter. And the color commentator for that game is right. That was a sick wrister by Nino.
Parise has a goal and an assist over the past two games after he was was a healthy scratch for Game 1-3 of the series. In the third period on Wednesday, he forced a turnover in the Wild defensive zone and then chipped the puck up to Kevin Fiala who fed Ryan Hartman with a cross-ice pass to open the scoring.
Fiala was finally was able to crack the scoresheet in the series with an assist and a power-play goal after being left frustrated through the first five games. Perhaps it is a sign of things to come for the winger?
“Nothing changed (for Fiala). Honestly not a thing,” Wild coach Dean Everson in the postgame media conference. “(The scoring) doesn’t have be every game, right, you just have to stay the course, play right and maybe you’ll get a chance to make a difference. He did tonight.
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“Kevin hasn’t changed anything,” Evason said. “He’s played the same way and just got rewarded tonight.”
The Wild’s offense might be getting healthy, or at least converting some chances against Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, On the other hand, the Vegas lineup is taking some hits.
The Golden Knights were without Max Pacioretty, Ryan Reaves, Brayden McNabb and Tomas Nosek for Game 6 , and Reaves, McNabb and Peyton Krebs have all entered the league’s COVID-19 protocol.
Then there is the Knights’ mental state.
This is the third straight postseason in which the Golden Knights have led a series 3-1 and then been extended to a decisive game. The Knights are .500 in those situations, losing to San Jose in 2019 and shutting out Vancouver in Game 7 last year .
The Wild won Games 1 and 5 in Vegas and hold a 7-2-1 all-time record at T-Mobile Arena.
But Friday’s game will have a different feeling than the previous matchups did.
“I think that’s the important part, you don’t get too bottled up by it,” Evason said in a media session on Thursday. “You go out there and have fun. We don’t know what the result is going to be but we can control our effort, our desperation and desire and hope things work out for the best.”