When Joel Eriksson Ek's goal that gave the Wild a 3-0 lead in the first period was overturned, the Vegas Golden Knights stole momentum and rolled over the Wild with five unanswered goals for a 5-2 win and a 2-1 series lead.
It was a Vegas whooping over the final two periods at Xcel Energy Center Thursday night. The Golden Knights outshot the Wild 36-9 in the final 40 minutes, including a dominating second frame when they tallied three goals while outgunning the Wild with 22 shots on goal to Minnesota's five.
According to The Athletic, the 16 shots Minnesota had in the game are the fewest in franchise playoff history. In Games 1 and 2, the Wild blistered Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with shots and great scoring chances. Fleury was a brick wall, but in Game 3 the Wild got to him with goals by Ryan Hartman and Eriksson Ek in the first period, only to see their dominating first period effort screech to a halt after the third goal was wiped away.
Eriksson Ek's goal just over 13 minutes into the opening period was a fleeting moment as Vegas coach Pete DeBoer challenged for offside, and the replay showed Nick Bjugstad skate into the offensive zone just ahead of Kevin Fiala, who was being hooked as he attempted to gain the zone with the puck.
Even still, the Wild dominated the rest of the first period and played well to begin the second period, only to have Vegas regain control and overpower Minnesota in a building that the Wild went 19-2-2 at during the regular season.
Now the Wild will need to bounce back in Game 4 Saturday to avoid being on the brink of elimination.
"We've been a resilient group all year … we always come back with our best the next game and I think we're one of the few teams who didn't lose three in a row this year and we need to build on that now," said Wild goalie Cam Talbot.
"We're going to have to come out and give our best game and like we've done all year after a couple of losses, we've been an extremely good team at rebounding this year. We have a lot of character in that room and we're extremely resilient, so I know we can put out a 60 minutes on Saturday that emulates the first period tonight."
Game 4 of the best-of-seven series starts at 7 p.m. Saturday and will be televised on NBC.
Note: Marcus Johansson left the game with an injury, which could open the door for Zach Parise to play in Game 4. Parise has been a healthy scratch in all three playoff games so far.