Wild trainer Dean Evason gathered his team in the middle of the ice on Friday morning at the Xcel Energy Center on ice. His message was clear after a successful road trip in which the Wild ended 4-1.
“We had a good road trip. So what? « Said Evason. » It’s behind us. We spoke to the group this morning about the drop of the puck tonight. For some reason, the first game after a road trip seems like a break. »
Evason wanted to avoid that, especially against the Los Angeles Kings, who came into the night even hotter than the Wild.
If the overall performance in the dominant 3-1 win on Friday was an indication of this, the Wild heard the message loud and clear. In particular, rookie Kirill Kaprizov heard the news loud and clear.
As solid as the wilderness was on that special night as a collective, Kaprizov was once again the straw that stirs the drink. He single-handedly got things rolling early in the game, and that carried the Wild the rest of the way as they extended their winning streak to five games.
It started in the first phase when Kaprizov dominated the game for about 10 minutes and then broke through to 1-0 with an incredible individual effort. He started the sequence by winning a board fight against star defender Drew Doughty and then passing the puck on to Jonas Brodin. Despite goalkeeper Jonathan Quick deflecting a first shot off the front, Kaprizov fired the rebound from the side of the net, then collected the loose puck and buried an all-round goal.
It was another highlight sequence from Kaprizov, the leader of the Calder Trophy, who leads all NHL rookies with 16 points (5 goals, 11 assists).
That set off something in the wild and they ran circles around the kings for the remainder of the first period. Nick Bjugstad extended the lead to 2-0 after Quick misplayed a shaky rebound off the boards and Joel Eriksson Ek made it 3-0 less than a minute later.
It was as dominant as the savages have seen in a long time, and the kings breathed a sigh of relief as the buzzer graciously rescued them from the onslaught.
That large pillow was important to the wild as goalkeeper Cam Talbot made his first start in almost a month. It also helped the wilderness solidly defend against Talbot when the kings finally got a foothold in the second period.
While there was rust early on, Talbot found his groove as the game progressed and he would actually have had a shutout if Jeff Carter hadn’t scored late in the third period to finish the score 3-1. That said, Talbot finished with 27 saves to deserve the win.
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