ST. PAUL, Minn. — Fortunately, there were hats left to celebrate the first three-goal game of Kirill Caprizov in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday.
The Minnesota Wild’s scoring forward capped off a majestic hat-trick with the final goal in an emphatic and much-needed 6-2 win against the St. Louis Blues in Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round at the Xcel Energy Center.
The best-of-7 series is tied and moves to St. Louis for Game 3 on Friday.
Kaprizov’s third goal, scored on an empty goal, came 48 seconds after he appeared forward Joel Eriksson Ek he had scored his own hat-trick, precipitating the initial shower of caps.
But that goal was disallowed on a coach’s tackle for offside.
“I don’t think everyone made it [to the ice]that’s all,” Kaprizov said, referring to the celebration after Eriksson Ek’s no-goal.
Video: STL@MIN, Gm2: Kaprizov earns his 1st hat-trick in the playoffs
The remaining hats made it to the ice after Kaprizov’s goal, gleefully tossed around by fans to bring a party to a boil that began to brew once Eriksson Ek scored his first goal, a broken play that saw the Blues defender scramble. Robert Bortuzzo flipping the puck when his stick snapped in two during a punt attempt.
As soon as the puck, Minnesota’s first shot on goal at 9:33 of the first period, passed the St. Louis goalie. ville hussothe crowd erupted, a crescendo of noise and palpable relief reverberating throughout the arena, releasing a joy that had been pent up during Monday’s 4-0 Game 1 loss.
“We hadn’t scored a goal in [Husso]Wild’s trainer Dean Evason said. And, again, we did a lot of really good stuff.”
No one did more good things than Kaprizov, who scored on the power play at 7:06 p.m. of the first period to give Minnesota a 3-0 lead, and again at 11:47 a.m. of the third period on a clever play from Zuccarello Mats in a 2 against 1 to make it 5-2.
There were smiles and jokes afterwards, two things that were understandably missing after Game 1.
Eriksson Ek joked about the striker marcus folignothe player offside on his disallowed goal should offer to buy caps for those fans who celebrated early.
It’s easy to laugh after a blowout victory and an effective offense that restored balance to a team reeling from Monday’s sixth-straight loss to St. Louis dating to the 2020-21 regular season.
The fact that it was Kaprizov who led the way in Game 2 made it extra special.
He is the undisputed star in Minnesota, the player hoping to capitalize on the big moments, especially after a 47-goal performance in the regular season, an amazing encore for the Calder Trophy he won last season as the NHL’s top rookie.
[RELATED: Complete Wild vs. Blues series coverage]
But playoff success had eluded Kaprizov, who had three points (two goals, one assist) in a seven-game loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round last season and was stifled by a Blues defense that he suffocated him for five against five. -5 play on Monday.
Kaprizov has dealt with such obstacles before on stages almost as big. He won championships while playing in Russia before the NHL, as well as on the Olympic stage. He said that he knew he was ready for this moment.
“You build a repertoire of experiences that you can use at key moments to understand when to relax, when to tighten up, when to push a little bit,” he said through a translator. “So, you learn, you get a lot more experience and obviously it’s very helpful at key moments in the playoffs.”
In short, he has learned to keep his head when those around him are losing theirs.
“I don’t feel the pressure,” Kaprizov said. “It’s up to me and all the players to score goals, and if we had scored those goals in the first game, obviously it would be different. But overall, I think the team did it today. We were able to score the goals when we needed to, so that we all take responsibility to be better and focus on the next game.
Those who have watched Kaprizov also knew that it was only a matter of time before he had a trademark moment like the one on Wednesday. After Game 1, Evason was asked what his team would have to do to free Kaprizov from St. Louis’ control scheme.
After Game 2, he pointed out the insanity of that premise.
“We’re not going to have to do anything. He’s just going to do what he does,” Evason said. “He’s just going to play hard. Sure, he’s got two, three people around him. They’re trying to beat him up. He’s just going to play through it. He’s just staying the course, just minding his own business.” .
“It shouldn’t be surprising his response when teams play it so hard and well that he takes it as a big challenge. He did it tonight and had a great game.”
A game that may well have changed the look of this series.