The Vegas Golden Knights are doing their best to hold on to the Pacific Division lead
Their next challenge will come Tuesday night when they oppose the host Nashville Predators to wrap up a brief two-game road trip
Vegas rallied for a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Wild on Monday in Saint Paul, Minn., scoring the tying goal with 34.2 seconds left in regulation and prevailing in a shootout.
"These are important games for us," Vegas forward Keegan Kolesar said. "We're a team that, if we want to go the distance, we might be seeing (Minnesota) later on. So, for us, it's taking care of business, home or away, whatever it may be."
The Golden Knights (48-22-7, 103 points) opened a three-point edge over the second-place Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific with five games left for both teams -- including a head-to-head matchup on Thursday in Las Vegas
If the pressure from the Kings wasn't heavy enough, the Edmonton Oilers are one point behind the Kings ahead of a game at Los Angeles on Tuesday.
The Pacific race arguably has been the best in the NHL, as the top three teams in the division played extremely well in March and are continuing that trend in April.
The Oilers went 12-2-1 in March, the Kings 9-2-2 and the Golden Knights 11-3-1. The three teams are a combined 5-0-0 through the first three days of April
"We're down the final stretch here and every point matters," Kolesar said. "To get that second point (in the shootout), you never know how big that's going to become until the very end, and whenever we get an opportunity to collect two points we're going to do our best."
The Predators (38-30-8, 84 points) saw their playoff hopes further evaporate with a 5-1 road loss to the Dallas Stars on Monday night
Nashville is five points back of the Winnipeg Jets for the second and final Western Conference wild card. The Predators have six games left and the Jets five
The Calgary Flames sit between Nashville and Winnipeg, and the Jets will host the Flames on Wednesday and the Predators on Saturday
Five of Nashville's final six games are against teams currently holding a playoff spot, with the Flames being the only exception.
Only two of Winnipeg's final five games are against teams currently in a playoff position.
One of the bright spots for the Predators in the Monday loss was the play of Mark Jankowski, who went 7-2 in the faceoff circle
"He's a good player, he's a smart player, he slows the game down," Nashville right winger Michael McCarron said of Jankowski. "He can protect pucks well in the corner, and he's good in the faceoff dots. You know pretty much every time he's going to win the draw, so it makes our job easier. We start with the puck and we can forecheck from there, so we're not chasing the puck the whole game."
The Golden Knights have been lifted in the last month by Pavel Dorofeyev, who scored two goals against the Wild. He has seven goals in 10 games since he was recalled from Henderson of the AHL on March 12
"He's scorching," Kolesar said. "I don't even want to be around him. I'm going to get second-degree burns."
--Field Level Media