Minnesota Wild goaltender Cam Talbot (33) stops a shot by Vegas Golden Knights right wing Alex Tuch (89) during the second period in Game 6 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Wednesday, May 26, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Fiala, Wild force Game 7 with 3-0 victory over Vegas

Fiala, Wild force Game 7 with 3-0 victory over Vegas

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Kevin Fiala had a goal and an assist in the third period to break open a scoreless game, Cam Talbot had his second shutout of the series and the Minnesota Wild again staved off elimination with a 3-0 victory over Vegas on Wednesday night.

The first-round series moves back to Las Vegas for the decisive Game 7 on Friday night. The Colorado Avalanche, who tied the Golden Knights for the best regular-season record in the NHL, await after sweeping the St. Louis Blues.

Ryan Hartman scored first and Nick Bjugstad tacked on the last goal in support of Talbot, who made 23 stops. He had 38 saves Monday night to help the Wild steal Game 5 while being outshot 40-14.

Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 21 stops, gave up three goals for the second straight game after allowing only four scores over the first four games.

Fiala, the team’s second-leading scorer during the regular season, went without a point in the first five games until tallying two at the best possible time. The Swiss left wing zinged a slap shot on a power play from the circle that sneaked underneath Fleury’s pad.

The Golden Knights nearly tied it moments before that, when Chandler Stephenson sniped a shot from behind the circle that Talbot never saw. Alex Tuch was in the crease, arguing he was being pushed by Matt Dumba, and the goal was waved off. Not even the challenge by Vegas coach Peter DeBoer worked this time, after two earlier goals in the series by Joel Eriksson Ek were overturned by video review.

After 44:21 of scoreless play, this tightly checked game finally opened up when the bounce off a blocked shot caught the Golden Knights flat-footed and Kevin Fiala found space for an odd-man rush with Hartman. Fiala set his partner up perfectly, and Hartman sent the puck above Fleury’s glove to ignite the 25% capacity crowd at Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild will try to become the 30th team in NHL history to win a series after a 3-1 deficit. The most recent was the San Jose Sharks, then coached by DeBoer, to beat Vegas in 2019. Minnesota has done it twice, both in 2003.

After a deliberate first period, with no penalties called and each team taking more of a careful tack, the intensity increased as the midpoint of the game arrived. Minnesota’s Marcus Foligno checked Zach Whitecloud hard enough in the corner that one of the stanchions came loose, disconnecting the glass pane as the Vegas defenseman went hurtling through the suddenly open space.

Dumba leveled Tuch with a sharp mid-ice shoulder, prompting Golden Knights teammate Alec Martinez to drop the gloves with Dumba in solidarity with Tuch. Four years ago, to protect Dumba in the expansion draft, the Wild traded Tuch to Vegas.

For the Wild, the middle frame was bound to be as pivotal of a timeframe as they’ve had all season.

Often a step behind the speedier Golden Knights, particularly with the longer shift change, the Wild were outshot a stunning 22-1 in the second period of their 3-2 win on Monday and 72-40 over the first five games of the series. Vegas had an 8-1 goals advantage, too. Minnesota was outscored 61-46 in middle frames during the regular season.

LINEUP CHANGES

The Golden Knights, still missing star Max Pacioretty to an undisclosed injury, held defenseman Brayden McNabb out for the second straight game. He’s on the league’s COVID-19 protocols list. Ryan Reaves was also scratched, and Cody Glass made his postseason debut on the third line.

For the Wild, defenseman Carson Soucy missed his second straight game, with rookie Calen Addison again taking his place. Matt Boldy, their first-round draft pick in 2019, took part in warmups but was left out of the lineup.

___

More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Dave Campbell, The Associated Press

NHL

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