Kirill Kaprizov injured? Missed time? Winded in practice? No idea what you’re talking about.
The Wild’s elite forward had a dominating performance and owned the scoresheet along with his linemates Ryan Hartman and Mats Zuccarello, as the Wild made easy work of the Pacific division’s second-place Anaheim Ducks, taking them down 7-3 in front of a home crowd. Zuccarello led the Wild with two goals and an assist, while Kaprizov and Hartman each added a pair of points. Kevin Fiala, Matt Boldy and Victor Rask also scored for the Wild, while Kaapo Kahkonen stopped 39 of 42 shots in the victory.
The Boldy/Fiala line looked good early, maintaining a good amount of zone time and playing strong on the forecheck. Near the midpoint of the first, Boldy and Fiala took advantage, as the young Wild prospect sent a beauty of a no-look pass to Fiala who deked a shot home past Stolarz for the game’s first goal.
Less than a minute later, Kirill Kaprizov chased down the puck to avoid icing, but just overskated the puck and missed on a wide open chance, but the effort did allow the Wild to maintain the offensive zone. A Kaprizov shot from the point was deflected aside but was followed up on by Sturm, who chipped the puck in front of the net to a waiting Hartman, who took two mid-air swings at the puck, the second of which connected fully and found the net above Stolarz’ shoulder for a two-goal lead.
But despite the offensive push from the Wild, the Ducks began tilting the ice in their direction. An offensive-zone turnover by Foligno turned into a two-on-one heading the other way, and Max Comtois found the opposite post and beat Kahkonen to cut the lead to one.
The Ducks had a chance to equalize on the games first (and only) power play thanks to a boarding call against Jordan Greenway, but the Wild were able to minimize the chances and kill off the call.
Showing zero sign that he’d missed the past week with a shoulder injury, Kaprizov battled hard in the corner and found Zuccarello with an absolute beauty of a no-look pass. Lizard beat Stolarz glove side and the Wild reestablished the two-goal lead.
Things tightened up in the second, and the Wild found tough sledding on offense as Anaheim upped the clutch and grab play to slow down Kaprizov and company. And while there wasn’t anything in terms of scoring, Brandon Duhaime still brought the grit. After leveling Ducks defenseman Josh Mason with a clean check, Duhaime had to answer the bell thanks to some ridiculous unwritten hockey rule, dropping the gloves against Sam Carrick.
Meanwhile, the one-man show that is Kirill Kaprizov continued making things difficult for the Ducks. His best two chances in the second came late, and as he corralled a pass from Zuccarello and got two shots on Stolarz, but the Anaheim netminder made the saves.
Coming out for the third, the Wild put their size 12 winter boots firmly on the accelerator pedal. First, Boldy took the puck off an offensive zone faceoff, did a nice spin to make space, then threw a puck on net that deflected off the stick of Cam Fowler and made it past Stolarz.
FOUR. SECONDS. LATER. Zuccarello made it a 5-1 game, making it the fastest two goals since Minnesota scored twice in three seconds back in 2004.
Around a minute and a half later, Victor Rask got in on the scoring, giving the Wild three goals in the first 2:05 of the third period.
But Anaheim wasn’t ready to roll over. At the 4:39 mark, Derek Grant scored to cut the lead to four, and less than two minutes later, Trevor Zegras redirected a Fowler shot to beat Kahkonen, making it a 6-3 game.
Minnesota stopped the bleeding, and got some chances that nearly went. Finally Matt Dumba welcomed netminder Lukas Dostal to the game with an absolute laser snipe to stretch the Wild lead to 7-3.
That would do it for the scoring, though Boldy did his best to keep things going...
In the end, a massive offensive effort from the Wild (tying for their highest scoring output of the season) resulted in an impressive 7-3 win over the Ducks. And while the two points in the standings are always valuable, it’s a good time to pull closer to the Colorado Avalanche with a trip to Denver next up on the docket on Monday.
Answers to our Burning Questions
Will the stop and start schedule catch up to the Wild?
Clearly no. The Wild came out strong in the first and put up a 3-1 lead, and pulled away in the third before Anaheim kind of made it a game late. Wild fans have to be thrilled with the effort, skill and grit the team showed. Even Kahkonen, despite allowing three goals, had a decent game for the Wild as Cam Talbot tries to return from injury.
Speaking of strong efforts...
Will we see Dolla Bill Kirill back at full strength?
Kaprizov set the dial to 11 tonight, and you wouldn’t know he missed any time the way he played. He was all over the ice getting chances and setting up teammates, finishing with a multi-point game and a plus-three on the night. He also led the Wild in shots with seven. Dolla Bill is back, y’all. And I can’t wait to see more.
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