Tuch scores twice, Vegas beats Wild to even playoff series
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Vegas Golden Knights hadn’t faced a 2-0 deficit in their first eight playoff series since joining the league in 2017.
They won’t in their ninth, either.
Alex Tuch had two goals, including the tiebreaking score in the second period, as Vegas beat the Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Tuesday night and tied the first-round playoff series at a game apiece.
Jonathan Marchessault also scored for Vegas with a game-tying goal just 18 seconds after the Wild took a 1-0 lead.
“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.”
Marc-Andre Fleury, the league’s active leader in playoff wins (82) and games played (148), made 34 saves in front of a sold-out crowd of 8,683. It was Fleury’s fourth straight game allowing one or fewer goals.
“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.”
Matt Dumba scored for the Wild. Cam Talbot, one of eight goalies in NHL history to post a playoff shutout with three or more franchises after the Wild’s 1-0 victory in Game 1, made 25 saves.
Game 3 is set for Thursday in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the Wild are 6-0-2 all-time against the Golden Knights.
“You’re going to see a totally different team even at home,” Dumba said. “We’re a different beast.”
The game opened with a bit of role reversal from Game 1, which saw the Golden Knights with a 42-30 advantage in shots on goal. Instead, it was Minnesota opening with offensive firepower in the first, outshooting Vegas, 17-10 on goal, and 24-18 overall.
Carrying over an exquisite strategy from the opener, the Wild made it difficult for the Golden Knights to get inside shots, suffocating them by sending two skaters at almost anyone on attack and taking away the passing lanes. And when either team was able to penetrate the zone and put pressure on the goal, Talbot and Fleury were equally spectacular.
Dumba opened the scoring when he took advantage of a screen in front of the net and used a wicked wrist shot from the point to beat Fleury on the glove side.
Minnesota’s lead didn’t last long. Marchessault answered 18 seconds later with a shot from the right dot, giving Vegas much-needed life. It was Vegas’ first goal in 95 minutes, 45 seconds, of the best-of-seven set. Reilly Smith, one of seven players to play in all 49 postseason games in Golden Knights history, got the assist. Smith is the franchise leader in playoff assists (32) and points (43).
The Golden Knights took the lead when forward Mattias Janmark raced behind the net and backhanded the puck to the slot, where Tuch was there to clean it up on the doorstep, giving Vegas its first lead of the series with 2:41 left in the second period.
Tuch closed things out with a power-play goal with 52 seconds left in the game, from a near-identical spot as his first goal.
“That was our mentality, to try to get inside of them,” Tuch said. “They like to pack it in, especially in the D-zone. They’re a really good defensive team, so if we’re able to get to the inside, get pucks in there and just kind of whack at him, get a few lucky bounces, it’ll be huge for this series.”
NOTES: The Golden Knights played without Max Pacioretty for the eighth straight game. ... After being shoulder checked and stood up near mid-ice by Marcus Foligno, Vegas forward Tomas Nosek left the game late in the first period and didn’t return. ... After being outhit in the first game, 71-57, Vegas outhit Minnesota in Game 2, 63-46. ... The Wild are looking for their first playoff series win since 2015. ... The Wild dropped to 2-13 in Game 2s, and haven’t won the second game of a series since April 11, 2008, versus Colorado. ... Both the Wild and Golden Knights are looking to become the first expansion franchise from either the NHL, NBA, NFL or MLB to play their inaugural season in the 2000s or later and win a championship. ... Minnesota (12-3-3), which ranks first in the NHL in wins and standings points against the Golden Knights since they entered the league in 2017, has outscored Vegas 53-42 in the 18 games. The Wild have held Vegas to two or fewer goals in 11 of those games.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports