Cole's blocked pass was vital to Wild's Game 1 playoff victory in Vegas

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LAS VEGAS - Joel Eriksson Ek's overtime goal and goaltender Cam Talbot's 42 saves were the highlights in the Wild's Game 1 victory over the Golden Knights.

But what was also vital to the 1-0 outcome was defenseman Ian Cole sprawling on the ice in the third period to intercept a William Karlsson centering attempt, a block that might have saved a goal.

"You just kind of try to get down and make sure you take that passing lane away, and then if you can work your way into the shot lane, then you work your way into the shot lane as well," Cole said. "It happened quick so in the moment, that's just how I ended up doing it. It ended up working, so it was good."

Not all shot blocks are successful; Vegas' Alec Martinez tried to get in the way of Eriksson Ek's windup in overtime, and the puck ended up clipping Martinez's skate and sailing into the net for the game-winning goal. But players still take their chances, especially in the playoffs.

"They're never going to be perfect," Cole said. "They're never going to be 100 percent. You're never going to be able to not get hit with a puck like Martinez did and go in. It happens. You do your best."

Overall, the Wild accrued 23 blocks in Game 1 and all but five skaters ended up with at least one; rookie Kirill Kaprizov had two. And despite how slim the risk-reward margin can be, players are deciding what to do without much time to size up the situation.

"If a guy's in a shooting lane and he's teeing off, if you can get into a good spot, you want to block it," Cole said. "That's the determination you try to make at the time in that split second and try to figure out if you can get a good block on it or if you're just going to end up being in the way."

More fansAttendance numbers across the NHL are on the rise during the playoffs.

The Wild and Golden Knights played in front of 8,683 on Sunday for Game 1, approximately 50% capacity for T-Mobile Arena.

"It's always a great atmosphere here in Vegas," Cole said. "Even their half-full or just-under-half-full buildings are very loud and very energetic, so it was a great atmosphere and they certainly brought it."

Carolina had 12,000 fans on hand Monday when it hosted Nashville for Game 1. The Predators are allowed 12,135 for their home playoff games, and St. Louis is expecting 9,000.

The Wild can have up to 4,500 fans at Xcel Energy Center (25% capacity) when the series shifts to Minnesota, starting with Game 3 on Thursday. After only a few hundred attendees early in the season, the Wild eventually expanded to 3,000 and then 3,300 for the regular-season finale.

"Just watching around the league, the games, the energy that the fans have has been tremendous," coach Dean Evason said. "We've talked about it a lot, about our 3,000 or whatever we've had in our building have been absolutely amazing and can't wait to get there."

Zuccarello nominatedThe Wild nominated Mats Zuccarello for the 2020-21 King Clancy Memorial Trophy, which honors the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice.

Matt Dumba won the award last year, the second consecutive season a Wild player was recognized. Jason Zucker won the King Clancy in 2019.

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