ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)Kirill Kaprizov scored a power play goal 44 seconds into overtime on Thursday to give the Minnesota Wild a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames.
With the victory, the Wild take over sole possession of second place in the Central Division. Minnesota leads St. Louis by two points with each team having one game remaining on Friday. If the Wild pick up any points in their game against Colorado or if the Blues lose at home to Vegas, Minnesota will have home-ice advantage in its first-round playoff series against St. Louis.
”(Calgary) looks a lot like the team we’re going to play in the playoffs – they’ve got a lot of skill, they play right, they play hard, they’re gritty,” Minnesota coach Dean Evason said. ”So, it was a nice test to see how we played. Obviously it’s great to have this success because clearly we’ve got another one tomorrow and we’ve got an opportunity now to get to home ice. But it’s nice to reinforce a lot of things that are playoff-type hockey.”
Jonas Brodin and Frederick Gaudreau also scored for Minnesota. Cam Talbot, starting in net for the first time in a week, stopped 31 of 33 shots.
Johnny Gaudreau scored his 40th goal of the season for the Flames, who have first place in the Pacific Division. Nikita Zadorov also scored for the Flames and Jacob Markstrom made 22 saves.
Minnesota’s 27th-ranked penalty kill unit held the Flames scoreless in four power plays, while the Wild converted both of their opportunities with the extra skater.
”For our (penalty kill) to perform the way it did, and the power play to win the game for us ,that’s huge and a big confidence boost going into playoffs for sure,” Talbot said.
Early in the overtime period, Calgary’s Rasmus Andersson was called for covering the puck with his hand. Minnesota won the ensuing faceoff, and 10 seconds later, Kaprizov scored his 46th of the season on a one-timer off a pass from Kevin Fiala.
”We got taken to the cleaners in the faceoff circles. That cost us a couple goals,” Flames coach Darryl Sutter said. ”It’s the little things that are the difference – faceoffs and penalties.”
Frederick Gaudreau broke a 1-1 tie with an unassisted goal at 11:59 of the third period to give Minnesota a late lead. Gaudreau scooped up a Calgary turnover in the left faceoff circle and beat Markstrom with a quick wrist shot.
However, Zadorov tied it with 2:56 to play, burying a wrist shot from between the faceoff circles.
Johnny Gaudreau got the scoring started three minutes into the second period. Matthew Tkachuck centered the puck from the corner and found Gaudreau at the edge of the crease. Gaudreau flipped the puck over Talbot to reach 40 goals on the season for the first time in his career.
Brodin tied it three minutes later on the power play. He took a pass at the center point from Frederick Gaudreau and fired a low slap shot that slipped past Markstrom, who was screened by Marcus Foligno.
”I thought we did a good job getting a point out of the game,” Johnny Gaudreau said. ”Our power play needs to get better. PK, our special teams, I think we’ve got work to do. ”
The Wild played without captain Jared Spurgeon (upper body), fellow defenseman Matt Dumba (upper body) and forward Mats Zuccarello (lower body). After the game, Evason said he expects Spurgeon and Dumba back for Friday night’s season finale, but Zuccarello will not return before the playoffs.
The Flames beat the Wild on Feb. 26 and March 1 by a combined 12-4 score, and Minnesota general manager Bill Guerin acknowledged on Thursday that the way those games went had an influence on his acquisition of center Tyson Jost, left wing Nicolas Deslauriers and defenseman Jacob Middleton prior to the trade deadline. Guerin wanted to add more heft to the lineup with an eye toward the physical grind of the postseason.
”I felt it just really exploited some deficiencies we had,” Guerin said of facing the Flames. ”They were playing as well as I had seen a team play this year, and it was really sobering for me. We all felt that we needed to address some things, and I think we did.”
Flames: Finish the regular season Friday night in Winnipeg.
Wild: Host Avalanche Friday.
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