LAS VEGAS – The Wild showed up on the Vegas Strip like most visitors do, with more to lose than it could realistically gain.
A loss would have undoubtedly done irreparable damage to its bid at a playoff berth, while a victory — although helpful — didn’t guarantee it would close the gap.
But that scenario at least remains a possibility after the Wild kept its flickering playoff hopes alive by outdueling the Golden Knights 3-2 Friday in front of a visitor-friendly crowd of 18,492 at T-Mobile Arena.
Minnesota sits four points shy of the Avalanche for the second and final wild-card spot in the Western Conference with four games to go.
“They want to win,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They’re not throwing in the towel.”
Colorado upended Arizona 3-2 in a shootout earlier in the evening, a worst-case scenario for the Wild because both teams above them earned points. The Avalanche now has 85, while the Coyotes have 82 — one more than the Wild’s 81.
All the Wild could control, though, was its performance against Vegas, and that was solid.
Goalie Devan Dubnyk was impressive, making 35 saves, while the offense was rekindled thanks to goals from defenseman Greg Pateryn, center Eric Staal and winger Kevin Fiala. The latter two came on the power play.
“We’re against a wall, obviously, and we still need help,” winger Jason Zucker said. “But that’s what we needed to do. We needed to come in and get that win.”
Only 2 minutes, 12 seconds into the first period, the Wild capitalized on a goal-line shot from Pateryn that banked off Vegas goalie Malcolm Subban’s pad and into the net. It was an opportune time for the third-pairing defenseman to record his first goal of the season, because the Wild hadn’t scored in its past four periods.
The team doubled its lead on a power play with 22 seconds left in the first when Staal deflected in a blistering shot from Zucker. Those two combined again on the power play in the second, setting up Fiala for a shot he lifted over Subban amid a scramble in front at 11:22. The goal was Fiala’s third with the Wild, stopping a 10-game drought.
This was also the sixth time in the past eight games the Wild converted at least once on the power play. The team went 2-for-4, while Vegas was 0-for-2. Subban racked up 29 stops.
Before Fiala’s goal, Dubnyk made easily one of his best saves of the season — stretching out to get his glove on a wraparound attempt by winger Mark Stone.
“I usually take pride and try not to roll around like that,” said Dubnyk, who secured his 30th victory of the season and franchise-record 78th on the road with the Wild. “Sometimes you gotta have some desperation, and those are fun when you get to make them.”
Not until two minutes were left in the second did the Golden Knights finally get a puck behind Dubnyk, a put-back by center Paul Stastny off a rebound.
Another goal by Stastny at 8:52 of the third set up a tense finish, but the Wild held on — an outcome that could end up being irrelevant or help the team defy the odds.
For now, it heightens the importance of its next game Sunday when the Wild goes head-to-head with the Coyotes.
“We were desperate all the way through,” Staal said. “I thought we were solid, competitive, throughout our lineup. Duby was sharp at the right times. We deserved the win [Friday]. Now you just have to follow it up Sunday.”