LAS VEGAS — In the end, the Wild simply ran out of gas in Game 7 of their first round series. Largely they almost ran out of players.
Truthfully, for this version of the Wild, that might’ve been the only thing standing in the way of a magical run. This group of players proved to be cut from a different cloth this season with their ability to consistently overcome adversity.
That played out so many different times over the past six months — from overcoming a lengthy COVID shutdown, to mounting countless comeback wins — so it’s only right the Wild went down swinging in a 6-2 loss to the Golden Knights on Friday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Though the Wild finished the game with most of their players still on the bench, they clearly weren’t at 100%. They lost star defenseman Jonas Brodin to an apparent upper-body injury early in the game, and stud center Joel Eriksson Ek clearly wasn’t at 100 percent as he fought through a lower-body injury. If that wasn’t enough, depth defenseman Carson Soucy missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury, which forced rookie defenseman Calen Addison into the lineup.
After missing the entire series to this point with an upper-body injury, star sniper Max Pacioretty returned to the lineup for Game 7, and fittingly scored what proved to be the game-winner, proving to be the finisher the Golden Knights have so sorely lacked for the past couple of weeks.
His presence in the lineup provided a boost before puck drop as the Golden Knights started the game on fire. They peppered goaltender Cam Talbot with scoring chances early in the opening minutes of the game, and broke through when Mattias Janmark stole a puck in the neutral zone, skated around a defender in front, and calmly slid the puck past the goal line to make it 1-0.
After getting a couple of scoring chances in front of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, the Wild finally beat him with a goal from Zach Parise on the doorstep. He parked his butt near the crease, then skillfully hammered a backhand attempt between his legs to tie the game at 1-1.
That set the stage for the second period where Nicolas Hague made it 2-1 in favor of the Golden Knights with a wrist shot from the point that snuck past Talbot.
While it would’ve been easy for the Wild start thinking about the offseason at that point — especially with the 12,156 fans in attendance reaching a deafening decibel level — they battled back once more with a goal from Kirill Kaprizov to tie the game at 2-2.
That’s where the magic stopped for the Wild.
After nearly scoring a couple of times earlier in the game, Pacioretty finally got his goal midway through the second period to put the Golden Knights in front 3-2. That seemed to take the edge off and Zach Whitecloud extended the lead to 4-2 later in the frame.
If the Wild were thinking comeback, Janmark put those thoughts to bed midway through the third period with a snipe to make it 5-2. Though that proved to be the dagger, Janmark added an empty-net goal in the final minutes to complete his hat trick and finalize the score at 6-2.