The belief for Wilde fans — the dream, really — is finally getting the superstar goal-scorer who could eventually pot all those Grade A chances the team was wasting. Especially in post season.
Well, they finally have him, and it didn’t help Wilde on Tuesday night at the Xcel Energy Center in front of 19,197 disappointed partisans.
Kirill Kaprizov scored consecutive first-period goals on better hockey plays to give Minnesota a 2–1 lead over St. Louis, but the Blues overtook goalkeeper Marc-André Fleury in a 5–2 game 5 win.
Vladimir Tarasenko’s two third-period goals were the difference as the Blues took a 3-2 lead in St. Louis on Thursday and closed the series. His empty-net target with 1:33 remaining completed his second hat-trick of the series. The first game was Kaprizov’s in a 6–2 victory in 2.
What is a crusher?
Finally, Wilde has his superstar scorer and here he is, staring down the barrel of his seventh consecutive first-round playoff loss. Kaprizov’s two goals gave him seven in five matches of this series. The Wilds have had their share of top-tier NHL talent, from Marion Gaboric to Zack Parris, but they’ve never had a player like Kaprizov.
If Wilds are as close as they believe they are – and have believed it more than a few points over the past 21 years – it looks like a seven-goal outburst from the 25-year-old winger will be enough to push them up. hump
Maybe it still is.
Winning Game 5 to go 3-2 in a seven-match series is good for any NHL team—historically, they win the series 79.1 percent of the time—noting that 58 teams actually win the next two. Games and advances are fixed for. It’s still a chain, and as this wind comes down, it gets closer to the ice. The series was tied 2–2 in Game 5, but each game was a rout. The winners won tape to tape.
In a series with evenly matched teams – especially good teams – the tactic begins to get acquainted. It becomes less about “playing your game” and more about meeting the moment.
“It’s two-two turns into a best-of-three. There’s more to you than just getting into the game,” Blues defenseman Justin Faulk said before the game.
No wonder, Tuesday’s game was the closest of the series so far, for the first time ever that both the teams played well for most of the game. The Blues took full advantage of Wilde’s worst few minutes to win it. Tarasenko was left alone in the slot on his first goal, giving the Blues a 3-2 lead in the third period with just 1:03 lead. He then threw a wrist shot from the right circle into the high near corner and beat a prepared Fleury a minute and a half later.
Relatively few fans who stuck around until the end threw some obligatory boons towards the ice, as they did something else Faulk said before the game.
“It’s a series, and that’s been our mindset the whole time,” he said.
The Wilds had dominated Games 2 and 3 and the Enterprise Center had a chance to really screw up the Blues in Game 4. Instead, St. Louis came flying out and won. This series is not over.
One thing Wilde has in store for him is that for the first time in the history of the franchise, he has an almost unbeatable scorer. Kaprizov finished the regular season with 47 goals and a franchise-best 108 points in 81 games and has only improved in the postseason. Here’s a player who won’t budge in the light of the season after all – who will really live up to the moment.
Gaboric scored a franchise-best nine playoff goals in 19 games in 2003. On his way back to the North Stars, Brian Bellows scored 10 runs in 23 games in 1991. It will be fun to see what Kaprizov and Wilde can do in a similarly deep playoff run. And a cry ‘Don’t be ashamed.