MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Wild couldn’t have asked for a better script in a 4-3 win in overtime at the L.A. Kings Thursday night to open a 56-game season shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his NHL debut, Kirill Kaprizov scored the game-winning goal in overtime and added two assists. He turned heads with his speed and skill during training camp at TRIA Rink, but the Wild found out what they have in their 2015 top draft choice under the bright lights Thursday night.
He didn’t disappoint.
"When you have no fear as a staff to put somebody on the ice that’s special like that, it makes it a very easy decision. It lifted the spirits for us after the game, I can tell you that. We were pretty excited. It’s real early, but it was certainly a fun game," Wild coach Dean Evason said.
"He’s a great kid, he works so hard so he’s very deserving of everything that came his way tonight. He’s something else. He gets the puck on that breakaway and you see what he does. Everyone who was watching the game can see that he’s a special talent. That’s why they call him ‘Dolla Bill Kirill,'" defenseman Matt Dumba said.
Kaprizov started with the primary assist on Jonas Brodin’s goal at the 16:06 mark of the first period to give the Wild a 1-0 lead. Minnesota was down 3-1 after two periods, then rallied with a pair of goals six minutes apart in the third period to force overtime. Victor Rask scored at the 3:15 mark on assists from Kaprizov and Matt Dumba to get the Wild within 3-2.
Fresh off signing a three-year, $9.3 million extension, Marcus Foligno scored the game-tying goal at the 9:42 mark.
The two teams got to overtime, where the Wild started with a 4-on-3 power play that spilled over from the end of regulation. It ended without a goal, but Kaprizov provided the final fireworks.
With 13 seconds left before a shootout, Kaprizov stole what should’ve been a simple backwards pass to a defenseman and was all alone for a breakaway. In the process of juking to his forehand on Jonathan Quick, the puck caromed off his left skate and under Quick’s pads for the game-winning goal. The score stood after a review, since Kaprizov didn’t have a clear kicking motion to get the puck in the net.
What was Evason thinking as the play developed?
"Please score. The guys were actually saying he lost the puck, but anytime you get a breakaway 3-on-3, it’s pretty exciting," Evason said.
In his first game with the Wild, Cam Talbot made 31 saves on 34 L.A. shots on goal.
The Wild wins its opener, Kaprizov collects three points and scores the game-winner in a debut five years in the making. The Wild revamped their roster in the offseason, and it should be a fun group to watch in 2021.