LAS VEGAS - The Wild was less than a minute away from what would have been the pinnacle of its season: the best run the NHL has seen in 2021, a spot atop the West Division and a signature win against a Stanley Cup contender.
Instead, the team proved it still has some work to do to shine in primetime even if it is knocking on the door.
Despite outmuscling Vegas to carry a two-goal lead into the third period, the Wild faded down the stretch and was upended 5-4 in overtime to snap its six-game win streak Monday in front of 2,605 at T-Mobile Arena — the largest and most boisterous live audience the Wild played for this season, a hyped atmosphere that enhanced the implication of the division battle.
The Golden Knights retained the No. 1 seed in the West, gaining a two-point cushion on the Wild.
"We were on our heels too much," left winger Jordan Greenway said. "We kind of sat back. Going forward, we've just got to keep the pressure on. We've got to continue to play our game. Up two goals, up five goals, down five, we didn't do that. We sat back a little bit too much, and we let them play in the offensive zone."
Max Pacioretty scored his second goal of the game two minutes into overtime, redirecting in a pass from captain Mark Stone, who assisted on all five of Vegas' goals.
Before that, former Wild player Alex Tuch tied the score with 42 seconds left in the third period on his own redirect in front — a strong push from the Golden Knights that was a far cry from the back-and-forth that headlined a second period in which the Wild jumped out ahead.
After Vegas opened the scoring on the power play on a deflection by Cody Glass at 7:09 of the second, Greenway buried a juicy rebound from goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for his first goal in nine games only 1:42 later.
Only 1:06 after that, the Wild captured the lead after Jonas Brodin's centering feed bounced off Marcus Foligno's right skate and then his left knee while he was down on the ice and the puck rolled under Fleury's pad.
Vegas responded when Pacioretty wired the puck past Talbot's glove on the power play at 13:41. The Golden Knights went 2-for-3 with the man advantage, while the Wild didn't receive a single look.
Like before, though, the Wild retaliated and it did so again in rapid-fire fashion – what's becoming a staple for the team.
First, Nick Bonino put back a loose puck at 17:53 (the fifth goal from the fourth line over the last four games) and then a breezy 19 seconds later, Foligno scored on a rising shot off the rush. Fleury ended up with 26 saves, and Talbot had 34. Coach Dean Evason didn't have an update on Ryan Hartman, who didn't finish the game.
The two goals tied Foligno's career high for a game, and the winger tied the franchise record for most points in a period (3) after assisting on Bonino's goal. His three points overall also matched his career high.
"A lot of these goals are just getting to the net, getting traffic, getting bounces," Bonino said. "Those are the ones that you need sometimes."
But that momentum didn't sustain the Wild in the third, with the Golden Knights' rally getting started at 7:20 on a one-timer from Nicolas Hague before Tuch's late tally and Pacioretty's clincher — an ending that overpowered the Wild even though the team flexed its competitiveness.
"We know how good we are this year," Foligno said. "We went on a streak for a reason and the mentality's gotta change. We gotta be the ones that we have teams keep up with us and not us keep up with them. I think that's the mindset we have this year, and moving forward that's what it's gotta be."