LAS VEGAS – The Wild is still working its way through the West Division lineup, but a road trip that plants two new teams on its radar hasn't exactly gotten off to a smooth start.
Despite beginning the week only one point behind the top seed in the division, the Wild is now four points back after Vegas held onto that No.1 position with a pair of wins over the Wild – including a 5-1 triumph Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena to complete the sweep.
"Obviously, the outcomes both games we wanted to be different," captain Jared Spurgeon said. "But at the same time, we're worrying about ourselves. That's a good team over there, but we're worried about our game."
Before facing the Golden Knights, the Wild had mostly played against the clubs projected to finish lower than it in the standings – Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose. And the Wild validated those predictions, taking 20 out of a possible 28 points from those teams.
Now, though, it's starting a new chapter of its season with matchups against Vegas and Arizona, which is where the Wild will play its next two games to wrap up this road trip before returning home to host Vegas (twice) and Arizona (three times).
And while the Wild was competitive against the Golden Knights in both games, the result wasn't the one the team had become used to earning.
"We gotta make teams react to us and not worry about them," Spurgeon said.
Where Vegas exploited the Wild on Wednesday was during odd-man rushes, with the Golden Knights getting and capitalizing on those breaks throughout the game and not just when the Wild was trailing in the third period vying to close the gap.
"We could have got more pucks behind them and made them work a little harder to get those odd-man rushes," coach Dean Evason said. "It wasn't necessarily a turnover, but it was where they get stick on puck or they won that puck battle and went the other way. But, yeah, they definitely had a lot more odd-man rushes than we're used to seeing."
The power play also let the Wild down yet again, finishing 0-for-3 despite generating some of the team's best chances.
In the third, Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov had dynamic shots on net but the Wild couldn't get a puck past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. He ended up with 36 saves.
"Obviously, it needs to produce," Evason said.
Perhaps no one embodied the exasperation the Wild felt more than Fiala, who banged his stick after not being able to solve Fleury.
Fiala was also in the penalty box, along with Vegas' Alex Pietrangelo, when the Golden Knights went up 3-1 in the third – a timely insurance goal while play was at 4-on-4. Fiala and Pietrangelo received off-setting roughing minors.
"It's frustrating," Fiala said. "I felt I was in the corner battling, and I felt like three, four punches in my head from the back. I gave it kind of back to him, and it is what it is. Went to the penalty box, and it's frustrating to see that goal, for sure."