Golden Knights find themselves in near must-win Game 3

In Game 2 against the Wild, the Golden Knights avoided falling to 0-2, which would have been the first time in franchise history they’d have been in such a hole.

The series is 1-1, and Minnesota, historically excellent on home ice against the Vegas, has taken the advantage. Thursday night is only a Game 3 (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN), but it sure feels like the Golden Knights can’t afford to give away any other advantages.

Vegas has won five playoff series and have a Stanley Cup Final appearance to their resume in just four NHL seasons. The Wild has never seen a run with as much success, but given their lofty numbers against the Golden Knights historically — 11-2-2 at Xcel Energy Center — they might have a window.

“We’re not proving anything to ourselves,” Wild defenseman Matt Dumba said after Game 2. “We know the level that we can play at. It’s more you guys, the media, putting us as underdogs. You’re going to see a totally different team at home. We’re a different beast.”

Of course, going down 2-1 in a series, if Vegas were to do so, is no series death sentence; teams come back all the time. This series feels different, though. Minnesota has had a distinct advantage on home ice, and giving them an inch seems like a worst case scenario.

The Wild have been a popular dark horse pick to pull off the upset, and that was only invigorated by their thrilling 1-0 overtime victory in Game 1 victory. That the Wild could shut down an offensive powerhouse like the Golden Knights — even while leading scorer Max Pacioretty remains out — was impressive.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 First Round schedule, TV info]

The Golden Knights found their game in Game 2, with Marc-Andre Fleury continuing his Vezina-like season frustrating Wild shooters. It looked a lot more like the near-Presidents’ Trophy Vegas team that competed all season.

Minnesota has found a key to limiting the Vegas offense in turn, though, too; blocked shots.

In the Game 1 win, the Wild blocked 23 shots. In defeat, they stopped 26 before reaching goalie Cam Talbot.

“To ask the guys to be diving and sticking their noses in front of a puck in Game 35, some guys do, some guys don’t,” said head coach Dean Evason. “Everyone does at this time of the year. I don’t think any coach has to harp on it. It’s the desperation and commitment that they have in the games and to each other.”

Whoever wins Game 3 has a chance to set the tone for the rest of the series. Pressure is on a Golden Knights squad that wasn’t able to generate wins in Minnesota all season. Some of their more unpleasant memories come at that arena. Towards the end of the regular season, they took a loss by allowing two goals in 26 seconds after leading 5-4.

That loss may be what cost them the Presidents’ Trophy — and a simpler First Round series with the Blues. Instead, they almost have to take Game 3 to prevent snowballing. Their worst case scenario might be facing up two more Wild home games, and potentially facing elimination at their toughest rink.

“The ball’s in our court now, and we have to go home and play the same type of game,” said Ryan Suter. “[We] can’t get away from the style we’ve played all year. We’ve created a lot off that style, and we have to go home and do the same thing.”

GOLDEN KNIGHTS VS. WILD (Series tied 1-1) – series livestream link

Game 1: Wild 1, Golden Knights 0 (OT)
Game 2: Golden Knights 3, Wild 1
Thursday, May 20: Golden Knights at Wild, 9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Saturday, May 22: Golden Knights at Wild, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
Monday, May 24: Wild at Golden Knights TBD
*Wednesday, May 26: Golden Knights at Wild TBD
*Friday, May 28: Golden Knights TBD

Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

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    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.