Even before Kirill Kaprizov got the Wild back in the game on Tuesday, he showed he wasn’t going to be held back by the Blues.
It’s a shame so few of his teammates followed suit in a disheartening 5-2 loss at the Xcel Energy Center that gave St. Louis a 3-2 lead in this best-of-seven series.
After Ryan O’Reilly gave St. Louis the lead in the first period, Kaprizov weaved into the left corner, where the Blues players tried to knock him off the puck. It wasn’t happening. Kaprizov fought to retain the ball despite being pushed into the boards. Then, out of nowhere, Kaprizov sent a no-look pass between the legs to Mats Zuccarello in the slot. Zuccarello’s shot was blocked, but that moment told the Blues, the Wild and the 19,197 fans at Xcel Energy Center that Kid Kirill came to play on Tuesday.
That was confirmed late in the first period, when the Wild’s 1-0 deficit turned into a 2-1 lead after two power-play goals from Kaprizov. The first came on a wrist from the left circle as Marcus Foligno screened Blues keeper Jordan Binnington. The second came with 2 minutes and 52 seconds left in the first, when it looked like the Wild would take the series lead.
He was so dominant on Tuesday that he made the weakest link in the Wild look strong. Both goals made the Wild 4 for 19 on the power play in the series.
“He’s amazing, isn’t he?” Wild trainer Dean Evason said. “It would be nice to have 20.
“Goals aside, he just wants to win. He wants the team, you know, we just didn’t have enough guys ready for him tonight.”
Foligno brought it on, delivering nine hits and said, “Game 6, desperation, you’ll see the best of us.”
But the best of the Wild was not on display Tuesday. Kevin Fiala had two assists but was again scoreless. Ryan Hartman also did not score in the series; both players scored over 30 goals in the regular season.
Jon Merrill’s cross-checking penalty in the first period led to St. Louis’ first goal, and he was at fault on the first of Vladimir Tarasenko’s three grueling goals in the third.
Yes, three. The Wild had contained Tarasenko for most of the series, but St. Louis coach Craig Berube lined him up with fellow Russians Pavel Buchnevich and Ivan Barbashev and it worked. Now Tarasenko has warmed up at the expense of the Wild. Not good.
Back to Kaprizov, because the other frivolities were disgusting.
He took a hook penalty in the second period to stop an assault on Fleury, should have taken a penalty when Brayden Schenn left his feet to control him, blocked a shot and drove the net towards the end of the period and almost scored a goal. it would have destroyed the house.
The. Male. Been. Everywhere.
There was one guy who walked every inch of the ice Tuesday looking for a win. He wore No. 97.
Kaprizov scored 27 goals and had 55 points in 51 games last season. When everyone was wondering how much better he could be in his second NHL season at 24, Kaprizov answered with 47 goals and 108 points in 81 games.
After scoring just three points in seven games against Vegas last year in the playoffs, people were worried about his disappearing act. This playoffs, he has seven goals – a club record for a seven-game series. He dances in the spotlight, which the stars do.
The Wild squandered a signature performance from Kaprizov and now faces elimination Thursday in St. Louis.
St. Louis has been dropped in the first round of each of the last two playoffs, and the Blues couldn’t afford to return to Enterprise Center with a 3-2 loss.
They answered. The Wild were the first team to win consecutive games in the series and are now the first team to lose consecutive games in the series. The season is online.
Now the Wild must act in kind Thursday to get to a Game 7. They need to make St. Louis’ next game the toughest game it’s ever played.
The best chance might be to clone Kirill.