ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The stars are scoring for the Vegas Golden Knights, all four lines are producing, and the goaltending has been superb.
That’s how to take control of a playoff series.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves for his 16th career postseason shutout, Nicolas Roy scored twice and the Golden Knights beat Minnesota 4-0 in Game 4 on Saturday night to shove the Wild to the verge of elimination.
Alex Tuch and Mark Stone each got their third goal of the series and Keegan Kolesar had two assists for the Golden Knights, who have nine unanswered goals and lead 3-1 in the first-round, best-of-seven matchup. They get Game 5 at home on Monday night.
“When you get those leads, sometimes you sit back. I think we did a good job of just pushing forward,” Stone said.
Joel Eriksson Ek had a goal challenged and erased by a replay review for the second straight game for the Wild, whose other stars continued to be stymied by Fleury and his defensemen. Their shutout streak reached 111:30, since Eriksson Ek scored in the first period of Game 3.
“To come in here and sweep was a real testament to our group,” coach Pete DeBoer said.
Kirill Kaprizov had only two shots on goal, giving him eight in four games. Kevin Fiala, who has no points in the series, smashed his stick in frustration on the crossbar at a stoppage in play right after a couple of denials by Fleury in the third period.
“We have to let this go, and I’m confident that we are going to score, including myself,” Fiala said. “I still feel like I’m going to get it done. I had great chances today again.”
Since the last time they advanced in 2015, the Wild are 2-10 in the playoffs at Xcel Energy Center. The Golden Knights hadn’t won here in regulation in their four-year history until Game 3.
“You’re always frustrated when a goalie is playing like that and playing on his head,” Wild right wing Marcus Foligno said. “You really can’t do much but keep shooting.”
The Wild made some line shuffles after a broken left arm in Game 3 forced out right wing Marcus Johansson, so Zach Parise slotted in after being scratched for the first three games against the speedier Golden Knights. Parise, who’s in the ninth season of his 13-year, $98 million contract, and the franchise leader in postseason goals.
Parise was one of the five Wild skaters Roy blazed a trail past for the first goal in the first period of the series for Vegas. Roy had only one goal in 23 previous playoff games for the Golden Knights.
Including Fleury, who had an assist in Game 3, the Golden Knights have used 21 players in the series — and 16 of them have at least one point.
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW
Eriksson Ek, who has been Minnesota’s best player of the series after a breakout regular season, tied the game just 19 seconds later — until Vegas video coach Dave Rogowski struck again.
The challenge by the Golden Knights that Foligno was interfering with Fleury at the edge of the crease during Eriksson Ek’s shot was affirmed by the officials, just as in Game 3 when Eriksson Ek’s goal was waved off. That one was disallowed because the Wild were deemed offside on the play, and the Golden Knights praised Rogowski for his quick thinking to recommend the challenge.
“It was huge to keep the lead there,” Tuch said.
The boos from the 25% capacity crowd sounded as if they came from a full house. Midway through the second period, when Tuch split the Wild defense and deked Cam Talbot (14 saves) for the 2-0 lead, the arena felt empty again, like it was earlier in the season. Tuch, the Wild’s first-round draft pick in 2014 who was traded to the Golden Knights in an expansion draft swap, has 18 goals in 51 career playoff games.
Parise was bloodied by a high stick from Zach Whitecloud a few minutes after Tuch’s goal for a double minor penalty.
Soon after the first one was killed, Stone picked up a loose puck in the Minnesota zone and blew by Ryan Suter for the unassisted short-handed goal to put Vegas in firm control. The Wild fell to 0 for 8 on the power play in the series.
“Fleury’s been phenomenal, but we were getting the same looks against great goaltenders all year and we were able to score,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We’re just not finding the net.”
Stone has 16 goals and 17 assists in 31 career games in the playoffs. … Fleury tied Grant Fuhr for fourth place on the NHL’s all-time list with 150 postseason games played by a goalie. … The Wild never lost more than two straight games during the regular season.
This story will be updated throughout the game
PRE GAME: Knights looking to win second straight at Minnesota. Marc-Andre Fleury in net for Knights vs. Cam Talbot for the Wild.
FIRST PERIOD: Knights goal Nicolas Roy (1) (Wrist shot), Assist: Keegan Kolesar (1). KNIGHTS 1, WILD 0.
SECOND PERIOD: Knights goal Alex Tuch (3) (Wrist shot), Assists: Chandler Stephenson (3) and Zach Whitecloud (1). KNIGHTS 2, WILD 0.
Knights shorthanded goal Mark Stone (3) (Wrist shot). KNIGHTS 3, WILD 0.
Below is the game preview
Vegas Golden Knights (40-14-2, second in the West Division during the regular season) vs. Minnesota Wild (35-16-5, third in the West Division during the regular season)
St. Paul, Minnesota; Saturday, 5 p.m. PDT
LINE: Wild +109, Golden Knights -131; over/under is 5.5
NHL PLAYOFFS FIRST ROUND: Golden Knights lead series 2-1
BOTTOM LINE: The Vegas Golden Knights visit the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the NHL Playoffs with a 2-1 lead in the series. The teams meet Saturday for the 12th time this season. The Golden Knights won the last matchup 5-2. Mark Stone scored a team-high two goals for the Golden Knights in the victory.
The Wild are 35-16-5 against the rest of their division. Minnesota ranks eighth in the NHL averaging 3.2 goals per game, led by Kirill Kaprizov with 27.
The Golden Knights are 40-14-2 against the rest of their division. Vegas has scored 190 goals and is third in the league averaging 3.4 goals per game. Max Pacioretty leads the team with 24.
TOP PERFORMERS: Kaprizov leads the Wild with 51 points, scoring 27 goals and collecting 24 assists. Joel Eriksson Ek has four goals and one assist over the last 10 games for Minnesota.
Stone leads the Golden Knights with 40 total assists and has 61 points. Reilly Smith has six goals and six assists over the last 10 games for Vegas.
LAST 10 GAMES: Wild: 5-4-1, averaging 2.7 goals , 4.7 assists, 3.2 penalties and 6.7 penalty minutes while giving up 3.5 goals per game with an .886 save percentage.
Golden Knights: 7-2-1, averaging 3.4 goals , six assists, 3.2 penalties and 6.7 penalty minutes while giving up two goals per game with a .919 save percentage.
INJURIES: Wild: Marcus Johansson: day to day (upper body).
Golden Knights: Peyton Krebs: out (upper body), Max Pacioretty: day to day (undisclosed).