ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)Jack Eichel had a goal and an assist for Vegas to hasten a mid-game meltdown by Minnesota, and the Golden Knights cruised past the sputtering Wild 5-1 on Thursday night.
Nicolas Roy, Alex Pietrangelo, Paul Cotter and Reilly Smith also scored against former Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who had little help in front of him and lost his cool after giving up Eichel’s goal that was the fourth of the second period for the visitors.
Kirill Kaprizov scored on a power play for the Wild against Vegas goalie Logan Thompson, who made 23 saves before a non-contact injury early in the third period left him unable to put any weight on his left leg as teammates helped him off the ice.
Everything else up to that point was going well for the Golden Knights, who came out of a nine-day break to beat Nashville 5-1 on Tuesday with their dads proudly joining them on the road trip.
”They bring a lot of energy. Obviously we want to play good for them,” Smith said. ”They’ve supported us through our entire hockey career.”
Jonathan Marchessault, who had two assists, flipped a pass to Eichel as he sped past Minnesota’s Marcus Foligno up the right wing. Eichel, who ended a nine-game goalless streak, snapped a shot over Fleury’s right shoulder for a 5-1 lead with 6:37 left before the second intermission.
Fleury immediately turned and hammered his stick against the post before flinging it in further frustration past mid-ice. That was the third goal Fleury gave up in a span of 2:26, after Kaprizov had ignited the crowd with his team-leading 29th goal.
Filip Gustavsson, who was in the net for the 4-1 loss at Dallas the night before, replaced Fleury for the third period. Fleury, who has a higher goals against average and a lower save percentage than Gustavsson, stopped 18 shots before he was pulled.
”There’s no blame for Marc-Andre Fleury, and his teammates said that in between the second and third period,” coach Dean Evason said. ”Everybody knows what happened.”
One of the goals Fleury gave up was a penalty shot after Alex Goligoski was called for slashing Smith, who sent the puck between Fleury’s pads after it glanced off the goalie’s stick.
”When you’re struggling to score, you can’t be giving them free goals,” Goligoski said.
The Wild, playing their first home game in 12 days, started a vital seven-game homestand against a bunch of winning teams. With three straight ugly losses out of their eight-day break, they’re in precarious position for the playoffs – tied with Calgary for the second wild-card spot.
Undisciplined play has been a major problem, and the absence of defenseman Jonas Brodin (lower-body injury) for a second straight game didn’t help. The Wild, who lost 3-2 at Arizona on Monday and 4-1 at Central Division leader Dallas on Wednesday, were booed as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
The Golden Knights have gone the opposite direction since their break, despite recently losing key forward Mark Stone to a back injury.
”This is the time good teams, I think, they don’t let points slip away,” coach Bruce Cassidy said.
Thompson, who was replaced in net by Adin Hill, was ”moving around” in the dressing room afterward, Cassidy said, and will have an MRI exam on Friday morning.
”We’ll have a much better idea, and hopefully we get good news,” Cassidy said.
YOU GUYS WERE GOOD TRAVELERS
The Golden Knights are 7-0-1 on their annual dads’ trip since the bonding excursion was first initiated by the 2017 expansion club. The Pacific Division-leading Golden Knights were 0-2-2 in their last four games before their break.
”It seems like they had a lot of fun, and when they come and help us win two games, especially the way we did it, I don’t see a mothers’ trip coming in anytime soon,” Smith said.
Golden Knights: Host Anaheim on Sunday, their first home game in 22 days.
Wild: Host New Jersey on Saturday night.
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