Wild put up valiant Game 7 fight, but Golden Knights advance

The Wild just wouldn’t give up against the Golden Knights, including in Game 7. Eventually, Vegas overwhelmed its resilient opponent, and now the Golden Knights will face the Avalanche in a heavyweight Second Round series.

Key Golden Knights mattered in Vegas’ 6-2 Game 7 win, but Mattias Janmark also enjoyed a big night vs. the Wild. He ended up with a hat trick. Let’s go over the twists, turns, pretty goals, and nasty hits of Game 7.

Janmark puts Golden Knights up with beauty, but Parise answers

The first goal is a big deal in a Game 7 … most of the time. It ended up not being that big of a deal in Golden Knights – Wild Game 7, though.

Instead, Mattias Janmark’s icebreaker stands as just an absolute beauty. A real jaw-dropper for someone who’s never scored 20 goals (his career-high was 19, and second-best was 15). Being both willing and able to make a move like this in a Game 7 is a testament to the sheer hockey talent on hand, even when you don’t always see it:

The Wild haven’t given up against the Golden Knights while facing elimination, and that resiliency showed through in Game 7. Zach Parise created two great first-period chances, ultimately scoring the 1-1 goal on a beauty. Marc-Andre Fleury really didn’t have much of a chance as Parise went through his legs to beat MAF five-hole.

Golden Knights eventually wear down Wild in Game 7

That theme of the Golden Knights struggling to put away the Wild continued in Game 7.

Just 2:05 into the second period, Nicolas Hague made it 2-1 for Vegas. Minutes later, Ryan Reaves dangerously hit Ryan Suter into his own net; it’s possible Reaves was lucky it was only a minor penalty.

The Wild made the Golden Knights pay, as Kirill Kaprizov scored a pretty power-play goal less than 20 seconds into that PP opportunity. This isn’t the first time Reaves put the Golden Knights in a bad position with an unforced error of a penalty. As you may recall, Reaves received a major penalty against the Canucks in a Game 7, one that the Golden Knights managed to kill off.

To the Golden Knights’ credit, they matched the Wild in being able to shake off setbacks in Game 7. The contest only stayed tied for a bit more than three minutes before Max Pacioretty scored a slick one-timer goal. Pacioretty has been sidelined with an injury, but found a way to make an impact. (Whether he’s 100-percent, or not.)

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While that Reaves hit was ill-conceived, the bumps and bruises really started to pile up for Minnesota. Jonas Brodin missed time after a borderline hit. Joel Eriksson Ek deserves credit for fighting through various issues from before and during Game 7.

Importantly, Zach Whitecloud scored an insurance goal, so the Golden Knights entered the third period of Game 7 up 4-2.

Chalk it up to injuries, or that two-goal mountain to climb, but the third period was largely eventful — especially once Janmark scored his second tally to make it 5-2. Even beyond that 5-2 goal, Vegas created as many or more chances than a Minnesota team on the ropes.

Once Janmark generated a hat trick with an impressive empty-netter, it was already long-gone.

Yes, they advanced, but could this be a costly series for VGK?

Against a powerhouse team like the Avalanche, the Golden Knights probably wanted every possible advantage. Winning the Presidents’ Trophy would have meant having home-ice advantage in that series. Would the Blues have been an easier opponent for the Golden Knights than the Wild? Perhaps.

While the Wild pushed the Golden Knights to a Game 7 after Vegas went up 3-1, the Avalanche have been resting. They last played on Sunday, May 23, and didn’t need to go to a single overtime vs. the Blues. Considering some of Colorado’s injuries this season, being rested vs. Vegas could be huge.

Meanwhile, the Golden Knights played three extra games, and it’s fair to wonder if Pacioretty, in particular, will be healthy. He made a big impact in Game 7, but missed a lot of time, and seemed shaken up late in the second period.

Either way, it’s a series many have been picturing this season. While this is the end for the Wild, Kaprizov and others inspire hope for more Game 7’s (and maybe a first series win since 2015?).

GOLDEN KNIGHTS – WILD PLAYOFF SERIES RECAP

Game 1: Wild 1, Golden Knights 0 (OT)
Game 2: Golden Knights 3, Wild 1
Game 3: Golden Knights 5, Wild 2
Game 4: Golden Knights 4, Wild 0
Game 5: Wild 4, Golden Knights 2
Game 6: Wild 3, Golden Knights 0
Game 7: Golden Knights 6, Wild 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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