The Vegas Golden Knights will try for their first three-game home winning streak of the season Tuesday night when they host the Minnesota Wild.
The Golden Knights improved to 9-6-3 on home ice with a 6-3 victory over Vancouver on Sunday, a win that propelled them into second place in the tightly bunched Pacific Division. They sit one point behind first-place Arizona but also just one point ahead of both Edmonton and Calgary.
“The standings (are) so close, right?” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury told reporters after making 26 saves against Vancouver for his 13th win of the season. “Every game against our division, they all mean a lot. It’s going to be a battle to the end of the season to get those points and stay ahead of other teams.”
The victory over the Canucks marked just the second time Vegas has won two consecutive home games during an inconsistent start to the season. The Golden Knights will be facing a Minnesota team that swept its two games in Las Vegas last season and has suffered just two regulation losses over its last 16 games — including a 5-3 defeat at Chicago on Sunday.
“They’ve given us trouble from Day 1,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said of the Wild. “They’re a real good team. They play hard. Hopefully we’ll solve it tomorrow. That’s a team we’ve had some trouble against for sure. They had a tough start to this year but the last month and a half they’ve been one of the best teams in the league.”
Vegas left wing Max Pacioretty, who had four points (two goals, two assists) against Vancouver, scored the overtime winner in Dallas on Friday and has at least one goal in four straight games, was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week on Monday.
“Max is playing great hockey,” Gallant said. “He shoots the puck as good as anyone in this league, and he’s really confident right now.”
Minnesota is in fifth place in the Central Division and would be out of the playoffs if the postseason began today. This will be the second game of a three-game road trip that ends Thursday at Arizona. The trip got off to a bumpy start with the loss to the Blackhawks, who broke a 3-3 tie with 6:17 remaining when Brandon Saad deflected a Connor Murphy point shot into the net. Chicago then sealed the win with a Patrick Kane empty-netter that completed his sixth regular-season career hat trick.
“When you’re on the road and you get to the last 10 minutes and you are tied, you’ve got to get it at least into overtime,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters.
One highlight for the Wild was center Eric Staal’s first-period power-play goal, which was the 1,000th point of his career. The 35-year-old Staal, who has 12 goals this season, became the 89th player in NHL history to reach the milestone and is only the seventh active player to do so.
“It’s difficult sometimes to reflect on in the middle of a season and a career,” said Staal. “Four numbers is a lot of numbers, and I’m obviously proud of that.”
Wild captain Mikko Koivu (lower body) and defenseman Jared Spurgeon (thumb), both injured on Dec. 3 at Florida, took part in an optional practice Monday along with goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who has been out since Nov. 20 while his wife dealt with a medical situation and could return to action Tuesday.
–Field Level Media