There wasn’t much happening Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center. It was another sleepy game for the Wild and felt like only a matter of time before the St. Louis Blues put their foot on the gas and ran away with the win.
As much as goaltender Cam Talbot deserves credit for singlehandedly keeping the Wild in the game early and winger Marcus Johansson deserves for providing some much-needed goal support, the game-changing moment came from superstar rookie Kirill Kaprizov.
Who else was it going to be?
With the game still very much in the balance, Kaprizov collected a pass from linemate Mats Zuccarello in the neutral zone, dipsy-doodled around star defenseman Torey Krug, then unleashed an incredible wrist shot to beat goaltender Jordan Binnington.
Ladies & Gentlemen, Kirill Kaprizov. pic.twitter.com/3tYLDDA3AS
— Giles Ferrell (@gilesferrell) March 26, 2021
It was the latest ridiculous goal from Kaprizov and provided the Wild with some separation on their way to a 2-0 win.
Though the highlight-reel goal from Kaprizov was the thing that went viral on social media, Talbot was undoubtedly the star of the night for the Wild. He finished with a 37-save shutout to reward coach Dean Evason for going back to him.
“I was actually pretty surprised,” Talbot said. “I thought this was a good opportunity to get (Kaapo Kahkonen) back in the net. He’s been playing so well for us, too. They came up to me after the game last night and asked me how I felt. They asked me if I was good to go again today, and I said, ‘Yeah. Absolutely.’ ”
It was a slow start for the Wild, though not for a lack of effort by Ryan Hartman. Literally the moment the puck dropped Hartman tried to get the Wild fired up by picking up a fight with Brayden Schenn.
“He asked off the faceoff,” Hartman explained. “I asked him, ‘When?’ He said, ‘Now.’ Tried to win the faceoff before to get my stats up a little bit.”
It wasn’t much of a fight as both players whiffed on various haymakers before taking a seat in the penalty box. It also didn’t provide much energy as the Wild slogged their way through the first period with Talbot standing tall to make sure the game remained scoreless.
That score held into the second period when Talbot finally got some goal support. It started when Johansson finished off a pretty feed from Kevin Fiala to make it 1-0 and continued when Kaprizov stretched the lead to 2-0 with his goal that set Twitter ablaze.
“The first goal gave us some jump,” Evason said. “They were all over us as far as possession and taking our time and space away. When we scored that first goal it was like on the bench we felt like, ‘OK. We are OK here. Let’s see what else we got.’ Then yeah we score that second goal. Then it was like, ‘OK. Let’s tighten things up.’”
That proved to be more than enough for Talbot. He continued to play well in the third period and put the finishing touches on his shutout with a couple of big saves down the stretch.
“You can’t always dominate games,” Fiala said. “The most important thing is that we won. It’s great to know that we know how to win. It doesn’t really matter what situations we are in.”
Now the Wild head into a three-day break feeling good about themselves after three wins in a row.
“It beats the alternative,” Evason said with a laugh. “We didn’t have the best game here tonight. But we had the best result.”