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  • Kevin Fiala Made Sure Everything Worked for Minnesota in Game 6

    Drew Cove

    Kevin Fiala had 18 shots through five games of the series.


    Entering Game 6 against the Vegas Golden Knights, he had been doggedly pressing on offense in each game but hadn't come close to being rewarded. In the narrow Game 2 loss, the Minnesota Wild forward had an astonishing eight shots on goal. Though he was threatening and had numerous chances, he just couldn't break the goal line.


    Wednesday night, though, Fiala was everything Minnesota needed in a commanding 3-0 victory to send the first-round series to a win-or-go-home Game 7. It all started with an assist, but was solidified with a game-altering goal. Take a look at both plays below.


    Fiala's primary assist was a sign of a player who has shown the ability to be a dynamic scorer in the NHL. Being one of the Wild's best players, that talent showed on his assist for the opening goal in Game 6.



    Fiala took this puck and, with his goal-scoring ability, understood the tendencies of elite goaltenders. Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury saw both Fiala and Ryan Hartman coming up the ice. Any goalie should be preparing for Fiala to take the shot over Hartman. So, Fiala held on to the puck and made it closer in on net, drawing Fleury ever closer to his right goal post. Then, when Fleury committed enough and didn't have enough time to quickly get over to his left side, Fiala rips a pass for Hartman to one-time into the net.


    Fiala was on the receiving end of a nifty chip pass from noted playoff scorer Zach Parise, as well, to give him possession in the first place. The play was destined to at the very least create a good scoring opportunity. Getting behind the Vegas defense had been hard all series and each chance needed to be executed properly to end with a fortunate result. With the goal, the team's top players have finally pulled through and made a difference when it matters for Minnesota.


    Continuing for Fiala's excellence shortly thereafter, he scored this seeing-eye shot:



    After a goaltender interference call on a Vegas goal on the other end kept the score 1-0, Minnesota got a power play when the Golden Knights challenged the play unsuccessfully. All series, power plays have been hard to come by, and at times, the threshold of what is a penalty and what isn't has been consistent. Regardless, the Wild's top unit was raring to get a chance and give the team an even better standing in the third period with the rare man-advantage.


    Enter Fiala, where he assumed the shooter's mentality and sent one through traffic to turn what could have been a 1-1 tie to a 2-0 lead.




    Aside from Joel Eriksson Ek's goal in Game 1, the team received a strong performance from its big-name players. Fiala and Parise pounced on their chances to get behind the Vegas defense, make it count and give the team a chance to play on Friday.


    Even though Parise is widely regarded as a playoff performer, Fiala doesn't have that reputation given he hasn't been in the playoffs often -- especially with the Wild. Either way, Fiala showed all season he was becoming what he was prophesied to be from the moment he arrived in Minnesota: a game-breaker.




    Lost in the shuffle of Kirill Kaprizov's electrifying rookie season, one that should earn him the Calder Trophy, Fiala was quietly having an effective season in his own right. He had a 40-point season in 50 games, with 20 goals and 20 assists. After a slow start in Minnesota, Fiala has come to excel for the Wild over the course of the last two-plus seasons.


    Like Kaprizov, though, Fiala had the same limited help on his lines with him. The two most talented players on the team struggled through line combinations and ineffective linemates for much of the season, but still managed to thrive. Take the Game 2 showing for eight shots. At times, he was driving through defenders without much help from his linemates behind the play, but Fiala still managed to get chances and threaten to make a difference for the Wild.


    Fiala has been a player the team counted on throughout the regular season. The Wild needed him to perform well during the playoffs for Minnesota to be successful. His chances through the first few games were a sign he was on his way to making a difference, but he just couldn't quite finish.


    On Wednesday, Fiala was up to the challenge when it mattered most and now he has a chance to do it again on an even bigger stage in Game 7.

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