Two of the hottest teams in the NHL collide on Thursday night when the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights travel to Saint Paul, Minn., to play the Minnesota Wild.
It’s the fourth game of a five-game road trip for the Golden Knights (39-24-8, 86 points), who decided to fly home for a day-and-a-half after completing a back-to-back sweep of Calgary (5-3) and Edmonton (3-2 in OT) on Monday night before flying back to Minnesota after practice on Wednesday.
Defenseman Shea Theodore scored the game-winner at 2:13 of overtime to defeat the Connor McDavid-less Oilers and improve Vegas to 11-2-0 over its last 13 games.
“A big team win,” said Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer, who also called the victory at Edmonton “a gutsy effort. Three (games) in four nights, playing last night (and) back-to-back. I thought our guys showed up and did a good job — every guy that dressed, goalie on out. We needed that kind of effort to win in here.”
Jonathan Marchessault had a goal and an assist, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 22 saves for Vegas, which began the trip with a 4-0 loss at Winnipeg.
“Obviously, it’s huge,” defenseman Alec Martinez said of bouncing back from the loss to the Jets to garner four points in the back-to-back in Alberta. “We’re getting down to crunch time here, and everybody is jockeying for positions in playoffs and the standings. We knew it was going to be a big trip for us. … Between (the Calgary win) and tonight, we’re happy to get the wins.”
Minnesota (35-27-7, 77 points), which has won six of its last eight contests, returns home after taking two out of three games on its California road trip capped by a 5-4 overtime win at Anaheim on Sunday night.
Kevin Fiala continued his sizzling stretch with two more goals, including the game-winner with 59 seconds left in overtime. Fiala has scored 14 goals to go along with 12 assists in 18 games since Feb. 4. In that span, Minnesota went 12-5-1 and is one point out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
“Not the way we wanted,” Fiala told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune after Minnesota allowed the tying goal to Anaheim’s Christian Djoos with 1:42 left in regulation. “We don’t want to give them the lead any time in the game. But it’s going to happen. It’s going to happen like this (where) we have to come back.
“Guys just talked about how much we needed the two points and that we have to bear down and go get them. With this group, over the last long stretch here, we certainly believed in ourselves to be able to do it.”
Minnesota had a successful road trip despite missing Eric Staal, who stayed behind due to a personal matter. Staal, who has 19 goals and 28 assists, returned to practice Tuesday and will rejoin the lineup on Thursday.
Vegas, meanwhile, will once again be without forward Mark Stone, who is second on the team in scoring with 63 points and a team-best 42 assists, but is still week-to-week with a lower-body injury.
DeBoer said center Chandler Stephenson (upper-body) will be a game-time decision, while Robin Lehner, obtained from the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline, will make his fourth start in goal for the Golden Knights. Lehner is 3-0 with a 1.67 goals-against and one shutout with Vegas.
–Field Level Media