Sweeping a team in these mini series’ isn’t an easy task, but the Vegas Golden Knights have made it a habit.
The Golden Knights have swept three two-game sets this season, but none might be bigger than putting some distance between themselves and the Minnesota Wild if they can accomplish that Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena.
Vegas is coming off a 5-4 overtime victory Monday that required a two-goal rally in the third period. The Golden Knights conquered their Minnesota demons for one night, but let the record show they’re still well below. 500 against the Wild (3-6-0) because hockey is weird.
“We obviously have to be ready for a push. Real good team and a lot of pride, a lot of veterans,” said coach Pete DeBoer. “We know we’re going to see them at a different level tonight than we saw them especially at the end of that game in the third.”
DeBoer returned the forward lines to their rightful places in the third period. The Golden Knights needed a spark trailing 4-2 after 40 minutes. Above all, Vegas got a spark from Mark Stone and his five primary assists.
Based on the rushes at morning skate, the lines will go back to normal pre-blender.
“There’s a fine line there,” DeBoer said. “Players, and coaches, we’d love to have the same combinations the entire year. As a coach, when things get stagnant or your team hasn’t had momentum for a large chunk of game, or games, we only have so many tools in order to spark a team.”
Win or lose, the Golden Knights will maintain a grip of first place in the West Division because of points percentage. The Golden Knights have a game in hand on Minnesota, and four games on the one-point-trailing St. Louis Blues.
Vegas and Minnesota combined for six goals in the second period. Good news for the Knights; they got two on the power play. Bad news; Minnesota countered each power-play goal with two goals in at least 1:06 because of turnovers and defensive breakdowns.
Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno scored twice in 1:06 after Cody Glass’ goal, while Foligno and Nick Bonino scored twice in 19 seconds after the first of Max Pacioretty’s two goals.
“Our second period wasn’t ideal,” said forward Jonathan Marchessault. “We got a few unlucky bounces. We’re a good team. At the end of the night, we found a way to win a hockey game. It was a good third period and overtime.”
It was a memorable third period and overtime for the 2,605 fans in attendance at T-Mobile Arena on Monday. Moreover, a new batch of fans will be ushered in to watch this battle of the top two teams in the West Division.
“They’ve personally caught me by surprise with how good they are this year because we didn’t really know what to expect with changes to their lineup,” Marchessault said of the Wild. “They play a fast game, they were really good and we’ve got to be ready for them. They’re legit.”
Vegas Golden Knights projected lineup
Max Pacioretty — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Alex Tuch — Cody Glass — Keegan Kolesar
William Carrier — Tomas Nosek — Ryan Reaves
Shea Theodore — Alex Pietrangelo
Alec Martinez — Zach Whitecloud
Nicolas Hague — Dylan Coghlan
This does not pertain to the Golden Knights. However, it is a big moment for the opponent. Wild forward Zach Parise, who has played 532 games with Minnesota, will be a healthy scratch on Wednesday.
This will only be the second time Parise will not play due to being a healthy scratch, and first with the Wild. The 36-year-old forward has played 1,034 games in the NHL.
Parise did not go off for a line change when the Golden Knights were trying to tie the game Monday. Parise was on the ice for 1:33 before Alex Tuch tied it with 41.6 seconds remaining.
In other words, Parise is scratched because the veteran tried to do a veteran thing.
“It was disappointing, and I don’t agree with the decision,” Parise said. “In my heart, I felt like I was doing the right thing.”
Parise said his intention was to get teammate Foligno his first NHL hat trick. When Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled for the extra attacker, he told Foligno, “if I get the puck, get up ice with me. I’m not going to shoot. I’m going to find you.”
“We were out there for a little bit, and Marcus had a break, and I made the decision to try and join in to help him. They end up getting the puck, and I saw him change on the backcheck, and I didn’t think it would be a good idea for me to change to, so I stayed out there,” Parise said. “Unfortunately, it was the ultimate backfire that they ended up tying the game.”
Parise said the team is “100 percent behind me and have my back, and that’s what matters.”
“It’s hard. I don’t care who the player is; it’s a hard decision. We’re taking the livelihood away from someone who loves what they do,” said Wild coach Dean Evason. “I can speak from experience, your head is going in a million different directions.”