Brayden McNabb took offense that Joel Eriksson Ek was hanging around the crease as Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury covered the puck, so the Golden Knights defenseman knocked the Wild center on his keister late in the second period.
That didn't sit well with Marcus Foligno, so the Wild forward nicknamed "Moose" tore after McNabb, with a melee erupting behind the goal.
When the ice shavings settled, Foligno was sent to the penalty box for roughing while McNabb and Vegas emerged scot-free. That set off the Xcel Energy Center crowd, which not-so-gently informed the officials that it had a low opinion of their quality.
“We're having fun. We're trying to play these games out as the key games and go into playoffs playing well. Everyone is feeling good about themselves.”
A spirited atmosphere was on display on the first Monday in May, and it was enhanced by those in attendance — capped at 3,000 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The West Division stakes between the first-place Golden Knights and third-place Wild are high as the NHL regular season enters its final two weeks. Minnesota and Vegas could meet in the first round of the playoffs, and Monday's 6-5 comeback win for the Wild from a 5-3 third-period deficit certainly carried playofflike intensity.
"In a race like this, it's obviously huge to deny them points," said Wild forward Nick Bonino, who had two goals and an assist. "As a group, we're pretty sure at some point we're going to have to go through Vegas or Colorado. Obviously, we'd love to continue to move up the standings, but wherever we end up, we just want to focus on these five games, playing the right way, flipping the playoff switch now, getting our mind right and just playing the right way all the way through.''
Entering Wednesday's final regular-season matchup between the Wild and Vegas, the Golden Knights sit atop the West Division standings with 74 points, two ahead of second-place Colorado, which has six games remaining, while Vegas and Minnesota both have five to play. The Wild has 70 points, two behind Colorado. If the playoffs started today, Vegas would face fourth-place St. Louis while the third-place Wild would draw Colorado.
Minnesota carries a 5-1-1 record against the Golden Knights into Wednesday's game, and another victory would improve its chances of facing Vegas in the first round of the playoffs instead of Colorado, which has won five of eight against the Wild this season. The Wild's other remaining regular-season games are at home against Anaheim on Friday and Saturday, and at St. Louis on May 12-13. Vegas has a pair of home games against St. Louis, a home contest against Colorado and a trip to San Jose to finish. Colorado has one game remaining against San Jose and Vegas, and four left against Los Angeles.
Wild coach Dean Evason isn't worried about playoff positioning — "The season will end, and we'll see where we sit," he said — but he acknowledged that games like Monday's can help produce postseason confidence. The Wild got goals from Kirill Kaprizov and Jonas Brodin in a 26-second span in the game's final two minutes, setting off a raucous celebration.
"Regardless of who we play, we have to have a belief in ourselves that we can win every night," said Evason, whose team has erased two-goal, third-period deficits in three consecutive games, going 2-0-1. "If we compete our butts off like they have and like they did tonight, then it gives ourselves a chance. So going forward every game that we play we believe we have a chance."
The result stunned Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer, whose team had won 11 of 12 entering Monday.
"That's about as tough as they get, that kind of loss. It doesn't happen very often," he said. "Thankfully, it's not two weeks from now in a playoff series because that would, obviously, be a lot harder to take."
Wild captain Jared Spurgeon sees his team as one that's cohesive and focused on entering the playoffs with momentum.
"We're having fun," he said. "We're trying to play these games out as the key games and go into playoffs playing well. Everyone is feeling good about themselves."