The Minnesota Wild said they feel confident despite a 3-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup First Round at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday.
“We’re not proving anything to ourselves,” said defenseman Matt Dumba, who scored and blocked eight shots. “We know the level that we can play at. I think it’s more you guys, the media, putting us as underdogs, and you’re going to see a totally different team, even, at home. We’re a different beast.”
No. 3 Minnesota is tied with No. 2 seed Vegas in the best-of-7 series thanks to a 1-0 overtime win in Game 1 on Sunday.
In the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs combined, the Wild are 6-2-2 against the Golden Knights this season and 12-3-3 against them since Vegas entered the NHL in 2017-18.
They’re 6-0-2 at home against the Golden Knights all time. Game 3 is at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2, BSN+, BSWI, ATTSN-RM).
“The ball’s in our court now, and we have to go home and play the same type of game,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “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.”
The Wild outshot the Golden Knights 17-10 in the first period of Game 2, even though Vegas emphasized a strong start and scoring first after outshooting Minnesota 19-5 in the first period and failing to score in Game 1. Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had to make multiple sharp saves.
“I think we felt good,” Suter said. “We felt comfortable. Obviously when you’re getting chances, getting looks, that’s a good thing. You have the momentum. It was tough not coming out with a goal, but the way that we played, we have to continue to play that way. We’re comfortable in those tight games. That’s how we have to keep them.”
Dumba scored at 12:07 of the second, and the 1-0 lead lasted 18 seconds before forward Jonathan Marchessault responded for the Golden Knights. Forward Alex Tuch scored at 17:19 of the second and on the power play at 19:07 of the third.
But the Wild said they are not concerned that they have scored one goal in regulation on Fleury in two games. They outshot the Golden Knights 35-28 in Game 2.
“I can give you some clichés about making it harder for him to see and getting the rebounds up, but we’re having some pretty good Grade As here,” Bonino said. “We’re making him move side to side. We’ve had a lot of one-on-one chances with him, and he’s made some big saves. As the series goes on, hopefully those go in for us.”
Forward Kevin Fiala had eight shots on Fleury in Game 2.
“What can you do?” Fiala said. “What can we do? Just keep pushing. I feel tonight was his night again. Just keep pushing, keep pushing, and I feel comfortable for the whole team that we are going to score goals, so I don’t think we have to change anything.”
Coach Dean Evason said the Wild are encouraged.
“Just stay the course,” Evason said. “Just keep going, keep grinding, keep doing the right things, keep playing the way that we’re playing and [believe] that good things are going to happen. Our group’s done that all year.
“We just commented as a staff how positive at the end of the game we were — disappointed, but how positive we were on the bench. There was no negativity. There was no frustration. It was just, ‘Let’s keep going. Let’s keep going.’ If anything, it was, like, ‘Wow. Are you kidding me?’ After a save, they’re just like, ‘Holy smokes.’
“So they know. They know they’re doing the right things, and we’ll reinforce it obviously before Game 3.”