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Apr 11, 2024 8:35 pm

Battling for playoff berth, Golden Knights take on Wild

Keegan Kolesar

The defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights head into their final homestand of the regular season still looking to try to clinch a playoff spot.

Vegas (42-28-8, 92 points) heads into Friday’s game with the Minnesota Wild (37-31-10, 83 points) in Las Vegas occupying the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, three points ahead of the St. Louis Blues (42-32-5, 89 points). The Golden Knights are also just one point behind the third-place Los Angeles Kings (41-26-11, 93 points) in the Pacific Division. Vegas and Los Angeles have four games remaining while the Blues have three.

The Golden Knights weren’t expected to be scrambling for a playoff spot after their 11-0-1 start to the season. Vegas led the Pacific Division on Thanksgiving with a 14-4-2 mark and 30 points but has gone just 28-24-6 since.

The Golden Knights come into Friday’s game on a three-game losing streak that began with an epic third-period collapse against the Arizona Coyotes, blowing a 4-1 lead and allowing six unanswered goals in the third period in a 7-4 loss. That was followed by a 4-3 setback against the Pacific-leading Vancouver Canucks during which Vegas squandered a 3-2 second-period lead, and then an ugly 5-1 loss against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.

Though the schedule — which also includes home dates against non-playoff teams such as the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks as well as the Colorado Avalanche — looks favorable the final week of the season, the Golden Knights know they need to ramp up their play down the stretch.

“There’s time. You can keep telling yourself that but before you know it, you run out of time,” Vegas forward Keegan Kolesar said. “We saw that a couple of years ago (2021-22, when the Golden Knights missed the playoffs). Right now our game is nowhere where it needs to be, and even if we were to get in (the playoffs), it might be a quick bounce for us out of there.”

Kolesar scored a third-period short-handed goal to spoil Stuart Skinner’s shutout bid on Wednesday. Vegas finished with just 18 shots on goal.

“We didn’t show up to play tonight,” Kolesar said.

“We’ve got to take care of business,” center Jonathan Marchessault said. “We’re not in the playoffs yet. We’ve got to start playing like we want to be in it. We need more than just a couple guys every night. We need everybody, and right now we don’t have that.”

Minnesota had its playoff hopes dashed with a 5-2 road loss to Colorado on Tuesday as Nathan MacKinnon had a hat trick for the Avalanche.

“Obviously, not a fun position to be in,” Wild defenseman Zach Bogosian said. “We’ve strung together some good games, but obviously tonight’s tough.”

What does Bogosian hope to see from his team in its final four games now that it has been eliminated from the playoffs?

“We’re all competitive people,” Bogosian said. “I don’t think you just roll over and say we have X amount of games left. We’re all competitors at heart and we’ll compete right to the end. We’ve got to get ready to play against Vegas. It’s the pride, it’s the culture, that’s the stuff you’re playing for.”

This is the third of three meetings between the two teams. Minnesota won the first one in Las Vegas, 5-3, on Feb. 12, while the Golden Knights won 2-1 in overtime March 30 in Saint Paul, Minn., on an empty-net goal by Marchessault.

–Field Level Media

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