Wild look to gain ground on first-place Golden Knights

NHL Hockey

What was expected to be a two-team race for the West Division title between the first-place Vegas Golden Knights and second-place Colorado Avalanche has the chance to turn into a three-team affair heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

The third-place Minnesota Wild (32-14-4, 68 points) begin a back-to-back at home vs. the Golden Knights (36-12-2, 74 points) on Monday night in Saint Paul. And no team in the West has been a bigger thorn in the back for Vegas than the Wild.

Minnesota is 5-0-1 all-time against the Golden Knights at Xcel Energy Center with the lone loss coming in a shootout on Oct. 6, 2018.

The Wild, who went 3-0 against the Golden Knights during Vegas’ Stanley Cup finalist season in 2017-18, also have won the last four meetings with Vegas this season, including a sweep of their two games in Las Vegas on April 1 and 3.

Minnesota trails Colorado (33-12-4, 70 points) by just two points. The Avalanche have one game in hand and still have one game left with Vegas. The top two finishers in the division garner home ice for the first round of the playoffs.

Both the Wild and Golden Knights come in off emotional overtime victories on Saturday night.

Kevin Fiala’s one-timer off a Mats Zuccarello pass was the winner in overtime for Minnesota in a 4-3 victory over St. Louis, snapping a two-game losing streak. Minnesota, which had rallied from a 3-0 deficit to force overtime before losing on a Ryan O’Reilly goal 5-4 in overtime Thursday, hasn’t lost three games in a row all season and is 16-2-1 in its last 19 games in Saint Paul.

“We definitely didn’t want to lose three in a row,” said forward Nick Bonino. “I think the good, the great teams don’t do that. We talked about that before the game. … (St. Louis) is a playoff team that’s proven in the playoffs. To get that result tonight I think, obviously, gives the group some confidence and is a step in the right direction.”

Vegas, which had a franchise-record, 10-game winning streak snapped with a 3-0 loss at Arizona on Friday night, bounced back to earn a split of its back-to-back with the Coyotes with a 3-2 overtime win on Saturday night.

Jonathan Marchessault scored the winner 29 seconds into OT after Arizona was penalized for having too many men on the ice. It was the 489th career victory for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, moving him into a tie with Roberto Luongo for third place on the NHL’s all-time wins list behind Martin Brodeur (691) and Patrick Roy (551).

“Maybe one day I’ll sit down and think about it and reflect on my career,” said Fleury, who made 19 saves. “But for now, it’s a good win, it was intense, and it felt good to get that one.”

Vegas coach Peter DeBoer, disappointed that his team coughed up a 2-0 lead in the third period, agreed.

“It was critical, obviously, for the standings,” said DeBoer. “But more importantly we got our game back. If we hadn’t gotten the two points, we would have been disappointed.”

Forward Max Pacioretty, who leads Vegas with 24 goals, left Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury and DeBoer provided no further update after the game.

–Field Level Media

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