Defense in Minnesota; Wild shutout Knights 2-0

Golden Knights

Vegas Golden Knights’ William Karlsson (71) moves the puck downice against Minnesota Wild’s Nico Strum (7) in the second period of an NHL hockey game Monday, March 8, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Kaapo Kahkonen made 26 saves to notch his first career shutout for the Minnesota Wild in a 2-0 victory over Vegas on Monday night to stop the NHL-leading Golden Knights’ six-game winning streak.

Kahkonen won his seventh consecutive start, extending his franchise rookie goalie record and improving to 10-4 in his debut season. The 24-year-old native of Finland has allowed only 10 goals over his seven-game streak.

Kevin Fiala scored his team-lead-tying eighth goal of the season in the first period, the only blemish against Golden Knights star Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped 19 shots for the team with the best points percentage in the league nearly halfway through this pandemic-shortened schedule.

Jonas Brodin was awarded a goal for the Wild after being slashed from behind with 6 seconds left as he approached the empty net.

Vegas, which had 19 goals over its previous four games, had not scored fewer than two in almost a month. The Wild caught a break when the Golden Knights scratched two of their best players because of unspecified injuries, captain and right wing Mark Stone and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Stone entered the evening seventh in the NHL with 21 assists, one of the key cogs in a deep collection of forward lines on a team that ranked fifth in goals per game as the week began.

Fleury, who posted his fourth shutout of the season on Saturday at San Jose, did all he could to keep the Golden Knights close as they hit the halfway point of a six-game, nine-day road trip. Coach Pete DeBoer predicted in the morning this would be the most difficult of these contests considering the Wild were outscored 10-5 over two losses — one in overtime — in Las Vegas last week.

The Golden Knights started rather slowly and a bit sloppily, and a giveaway in their attacking zone set the Wild up for an early lead. Victor Rask snagged the puck, pivoted and passed it to send Fiala the other way on a two-on-one rush with Zach Parise. Fiala used Parise as a decoy and swooped in to snap a wrist shot over Fleury’s shoulder midway through the first period.

POWER OUTAGE

The Wild went 0 for 2 on the power play and fell to a league-worst 6.8% conversion rate (5 for 74). The Golden Knights are second in the league in penalty killing at 88.1% (52 out of 59).

HOUSE OF STONE

Stone won NHL’s first star award for his performance last week, with two goals and eight assists in four games. That included a career-high five assists against Minnesota on March 1. Stone entered the game tied for fourth in the league with a plus-14 rating.

UP NEXT

After the rematch here on Wednesday, the Golden Knights travel to St. Louis to play the Blues on Friday and Saturday. The Wild stay home for three straight games against the Arizona Coyotes, on Friday, Sunday and March 16.

This story will be updated throughout the game

PRE GAME: Knights will be without two of their top players tonight. Forward Mark Stone has an undisclosed injury, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo with an upper body injury. Marc-Andre Fleury in net.

FIRST PERIOD: Wild’s Kevin Fiala (8) scores with the assist to Victor Rask (5). WILD 1, KNIGHTS 0 midway through period.

WILD 1, KNIGHTS 0 after one period. Shots on goal: Wild 10, Knights 5. Knights defenseman Zack Whitecloud left the game with an undisclosed injury.

SECOND PERIOD: No goals. WILD 1, KNIGHTS 0 after two periods. Shots on goal: Knights 19, Wild 15. Zack Whitecloud has returned to action.

THIRD PERIOD: Wild’s Jonas Brodin (4) with an empty net goal with :05 second left. WILD 2, KNIGHTS 0 final. Shots on goal: Knights 26, Wild 21.

Same two teams play again Wednesday.

Vegas Golden Knights (16-4-1, first in the West Division) vs. Minnesota Wild (13-8-1, fourth in the West Division)

St. Paul, Minnesota; Monday, 5 p.m. PST

BOTTOM LINE: Vegas visits Minnesota after the Golden Knights shut out San Jose 4-0. Marc-Andre Fleury earned the victory in the net for Vegas after collecting 24 saves.

The Wild are 13-8-1 against opponents in the West Division. Minnesota averages 9.3 penalty minutes per game, the eighth-most in the Nhl. Kevin Fiala leads the team serving 31 total minutes.

The Golden Knights are 16-4-1 in division play. Vegas is sixth in the NHL averaging 5.8 assists per game, led by Mark Stone with 1.0.

In their last meeting on March 3, Vegas won 5-1.

TOP PERFORMERS: Marcus Foligno leads the Wild with a plus-10 in 20 games this season. Mats Zuccarello has four goals and nine assists over the last 10 games for Minnesota.

Stone leads the Golden Knights with a plus-14 in 21 games this season. Alex Tuch has eight goals over the last 10 games for Vegas.

LAST 10 GAMES: Wild: 7-2-1, averaging 3.9 goals, 6.2 assists, 3.6 penalties and 7.8 penalty minutes while giving up 2.4 goals per game with a .916 save percentage.

Golden Knights: 8-2-0, averaging 3.3 goals, 5.4 assists, three penalties and 6.8 penalty minutes while allowing 1.8 goals per game with a .941 save percentage.

INJURIES: Wild: Ryan Hartman: day to day (lower body).

Golden Knights: Robin Lehner: out (upper body), Alex Pietrangelo (upper body), Mark Stone (undisclosed), Brayden McNabb (upper body).

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