Minnesota Wild coach Dean Evason let out a giant exhale as he sat on the dais following Thursday’s 3-2 shootout victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. He looked like he had just finished a heavyweight bout with Mike Tyson, and for good reason.
Let’s just say the Wild didn’t make things easy on themselves on their night in Vegas.
“That was not a fun hockey game,” Evason said with a smirk and a pregnant pause. “No, I’m joking.”
There was some truth to that statement. Though it was certainly an exciting game, it was also stressful as the Wild allowed an absurd amount of odd-man rushes. The fact is, they might have gotten blown out if not for the stellar play of goaltender Cam Talbot.
“We made it harder on ourselves in a lot of different situations,” Evason said. “We definitely have to clean that up. The one thing we didn’t doubt about our group is that we tried our butts off. That starts with our goaltender who saved our butts on several occasions.”
That overall effort is something the Wild can latch onto moving forward. Third in the West division with a 22-11-2 record and 46 points, the Wild are in good position to make the NHL playoffs at this point and have to start dialing in over the final five weeks and 21 games of the regular season.
“There’s not a lot of games left,” Joel Eriksson Ek said. “We have to push for the playoffs. I think every team is thinking the same. It’s really important to come into every game and be ready to go.”
The series between the Wild and the Golden Knights might as well be a playoff preview. Both teams were engaged from the initial drop of the puck in Thursday’s game and followed it up with physical play over the 60-plus minutes. It’s safe to assume Saturday’s rematch in Vegas will have a similar feel.
“It was intense,” Evason said. “There’s no question about that. Both groups competed very hard.”
For the Wild, the win was encouraging after some uninspired play over the past couple of weeks. The fact that it came against the Golden Knights was a bonus.
“We know we are going to have to come through this team if we want to make it out of our division in the playoffs,” Talbot said. “This is a tough building to play in, and this gives us a lot of confidence moving forward that we can come in here and play a game like that and come out with a big win.”
Now the Wild will look to keep things going in the right direction starting with Saturday’s rematch. That starts a difficult stretch for the Wild which features two games against the Colorado Avalanche followed by three games against the St. Louis Blues.
“We’ll see where we sit,” Evason said. “We have our hands full coming up in a couple of days playing these guys again.”