Minnesota defenseman Matt Dumba said the Wild are a “different beast” at home.
That could spell trouble for the Vegas Golden Knights.
The first-round West Division playoff series between the teams moves Thursday to St. Paul, Minnesota, tied at 1-1.
The second-seeded Golden Knights gave up home-ice advantage with a 1-0 overtime defeat in Game 1, but they evened the series with a 3-1 victory Tuesday as Alex Tuch scored twice.
Dumba seemed to bristle at a suggestion the third-seeded Wild are still the underdogs.
“We’re not proving anything to ourselves,” Dumba said. “We know the level that we can play at. … You’re going to see a totally different team, even, at home.”
The series history between the teams bears that out.
The Wild are 6-2-2 against the Golden Knights this season and 12-3-3 versus them since Vegas entered the NHL in the 2017-18 season.
And Minnesota is 6-0-2 all-time at home against the Golden Knights.
“The ball’s in our court now, and we have to go home and play the same type of game,” Wild defenseman Ryan Suter said. “Can’t get away from the style we’ve played all year. We’ve created a lot off that style, and we have to go home and do the same thing.”
Dumba scored for the Wild midway through the second period in Game 2, but Vegas’ Jonathan Marchessault tallied 18 seconds later to tie it.
“I just sensed we were a different group after that goal,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “It was great timing by Marchy to get that one right away obviously and put us back in the game. The importance of actually getting a goal can’t be minimized because I thought we were much better after that.”
That set the stage for Tuch, who scored the go-ahead goal at 17:19 of the second and capped the victory with a power-play goal in the game’s final minute.
Tuch’s 17 playoffs goals are the most in Golden Knights history, followed by Marchessault with 16.
Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, the league’s active leader in playoff wins (82) and games played (148), came up big again with 34 saves.
“I thought those first two games, our guys have been great at letting me see the puck,” Fleury said. “And when I don’t, most of the time they block it. I thought our defense has done a great job with that and certainly helps me out a lot.”
Wild coach Dean Evason said his team is encouraged after splitting the first two games in Vegas.
“Just stay the course,” Evason said. “Just keep going, keep grinding, keep doing the right things, keep playing the way that we’re playing and (believe) that good things are going to happen. Our group’s done that all year.
“We just commented as a staff how positive at the end of (Game 2) we were — disappointed, but how positive we were on the bench. There was no negativity. There was no frustration. It was just, ‘Let’s keep going. Let’s keep going.’ If anything, it was, like, ‘Wow. Are you kidding me?’ After a save, they’re just like, ‘Holy smokes.’
“So they know. They know they’re doing the right things, and we’ll reinforce it obviously before Game 3.”
–Field Level Media