LAS VEGAS – During the Wild’s battle with the Golden Knights on Monday, winger Marcus Foligno caught a glimpse of the out-of-town scoreboard and noticed a 4-1 loss for the Avalanche to the Predators.
“This is a good chance to move up,” Foligno determined.
And although not all his teammates were aware of the opportunity, the group certainly played like it knew what was at stake and was eager to capitalize.
Despite its recent knack for yo-yoing through the schedule, the Wild flipped from a non-playoff spot into the third seed in the Central Division with a 4-2 win in front of an announced 18,328 at T-Mobile Arena. That amps up the significance of the final game before the All-Star break — Wednesday’s road tilt with Colorado, which is one point behind the Wild.
“We gotta treat it like a playoff game and go and play the same way we have the last two games and enjoy it — enjoy the challenge and the importance of the game,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said.
If it competes as tenaciously as it did against Vegas, the Wild could easily grow its cushion over the Avalanche and Stars — the two teams the Wild hurdled in the Western Conference standings with this victory.
The Wild also picked up defenseman Brad Hunt, who played college hockey at Bemidji State, in a deal announced after the game.
Winger Charlie Coyle broke a 2-2 tie 14 minutes, 29 seconds into the third period when he polished off a pass from defenseman Jared Spurgeon, and captain Mikko Koivu added the 200th goal of his career with 13 seconds to go on an empty-netter.
This outburst came after the Wild killed off back-to-back penalties earlier in the period, including 1:12 of 5-on-3 time.
“Any time you can kill a 5-on-3, that team usually wins,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Vegas did tally one power play goal, when former Wild winger Alex Tuch buried a 2-on-1 pass from winger Jonathan Marchessault just 3:37 into the first, but the Wild snuffed out the Golden Knights’ ensuing four chances.
The Wild went 0-for-2 on its power plays.
“We did such a good job breaking things up and getting the puck 200 feet down the ice that it’s hard for any team to get anything going on the power play,” said Dubnyk, who posted 30 saves while Marc-Andre Fleury had 18 for Vegas. “That was a fantastic job by us.”
Foligno’s one-timer of a backhand pass by center Joel Eriksson Ek at 9:09 of the second tied it at 1, a goal that uncorked a boisterous cheer from the sizable contingent of Wild fans on hand.
The goal also seemed to galvanize the Wild.
First, Dubnyk stopped a breakaway try by winger Tomas Nosek. Then rookie Jordan Greenway bulldozed his way through a crowd to scoop up the puck and take it to the net before his wraparound attempt landed right on the stick of center Eric Staal for the backdoor tap-in only 1:13 after Foligno’s goal.
Staal has five goals in five career games against the Golden Knights.
“It’s always nice if you make a save or make a play and then the puck goes down the ice and it goes in the net,” Dubnyk said.
Before the period ended, Vegas tied it at 2 on a shot through traffic by winger Max Pacioretty — setting up a critical third period that the Wild seized, to capture the game and improve its outlook in the standings.
“Every time you can pick up two points,” Boudreau said, “you’re closer to being where you want to be.”