The Vegas Golden Knights never travel to Saint Paul, Minnesota to face the Minnesota Wild.
They’re en route to Westview, New Jersey.
Reality is distorted once the Golden Knights enter the State of Hockey. Things go well until they realize it was Kahkonen all along.
The Golden Knights’ six-game winning streak ended Monday, 2-0 to the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Vegas dropped to 1-4-0 all-time in Prince’s home state, but Purple Rain is more of a flood the Golden Knights must trek in that building.
“I thought we had opportunities,” said forward Max Pacioretty. “They played a strong game; I thought we played really well. It’s not always going to be a high-scoring game, especially in our division.”
Marc-Andre Fleury made 20 saves in his first loss since the Lake Tahoe game against Colorado on Feb. 20. Kevin Fiala and Jonas Brodin scored for Minnesota.
It’s the second time the Golden Knights were shutout in 2021 (1-0 at home against Anaheim on Feb. 11). Kaapo Kahkonen won his seventh consecutive start and made 26 saves for his first NHL shutout.
“They’re a good team, obviously,” Fleury said. “I think tonight, they defended well. They capitalized early in the game and we just couldn’t get back. It was a close game all night long.”
The Golden Knights were already behind the 8-ball being down Mark Stone and Alex Pietrangelo. Vegas’ captain (lower body) and top-two defenseman (arm) were held out after being declared game-time decisions earlier in the day.
Make no mistake, the Golden Knights being down Stone and Pietrangelo would benefit any team. But it’s a rarefied air at Xcel Energy Center, almost that it has some sort of hex on the Golden Knights that not even Wanda Maximoff can control.
“You’re always going to miss guys like that when they’re not in the lineup,” Pacioretty said. “It’s no excuse.”
Fiala scored at 10:51 of the first off a turnover from Keegan Kolesar. Fiala had a 2-on-1 with Nick Holden trailing and beat Fleury with the snapshot.
The Golden Knights have yet to score a goal in the first period at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild, thanks to Fiala’s goal, lead 6-0 in that department.
You have to go back to Oct. 6, 2018, to find the last Golden Knights goal scored in the state of Minnesota; it was Pacioretty’s first Vegas goal after the Montreal trade. Of course, Vegas was shutout 4-0 on Feb. 11 of last year.
Minnesota has outscored Vegas 16-6 in Saint Paul.
Opportunities were there for the Golden Knights to break that slide, having three power plays. They only registered three shots on the man advantage, however, all of them came on the final opportunity at 5:33 of the second.
“It’s just execution,” said coach Pete DeBoer. “I think their goal and our entire first period, we made some poor puck decisions. The goal was a direct result of that. When we cleaned that up in the last 40 minutes, I thought we did some good stuff.
After scoring 10 goals in two games at T-Mobile Arena last week, the Golden Knights’ offense went quiet. Part of that has to do with Stone, their leading point scorer, out of the lineup.
Outside of that, the Golden Knights struggled to get to the crease and obstruct the 6-foot-4 Kahkonen’s … vision. According to Natural Stat Trick, Kahkonen allowed only one shot on a rebound. Everything else, moreover, was one-and-done.
“They’re a big strong team,” DeBoer said. “You’ve got to work to get in front of the net against them. It takes some pride in defending like we do, and we just didn’t get into that area enough.”
DeBoer went back to the well with Alex Tuch on the top line with Chandler Stephenson and Pacioretty. Tuch double shifted between Lines 1 and 3 in relief of Stone on Saturday.
The line did well generating seven attempts and allowing only three. The trio allowed only 0.04 expected goals, but only created 0.14 in the xGF department.
The Golden Knights are in the midst of a six-game road trip in nine nights, they had to change hotels through a San Jose stop, and are now down their two highest-paid players. It’s another day in the life of a hockey team playing a 56-game season due to a global pandemic.
What is grief if not love persevering? The Golden Knights will get another crack at that on Wednesday in Westvi … I mean, Saint Paul.