ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)Kirill Kaprizov came to the rink dressed like an elf at the request of teammate Ryan Reaves, with a fuzzy green-and-red hat that stayed on his head for the Christmas-themed warmups.
Minnesota’s star forward kept the fun going all game with his one-of-a-kind skills.
Kaprizov had a goal and two assists for the Wild, who held on to beat the Ottawa Senators 4-2 on Sunday afternoon for their fifth straight win.
”Every practice he’s trying new things, and just the chemistry he has with the guys and the vision he has is like none other I’ve seen,” captain Jared Spurgeon said. ”I think it all starts with just how hard he works and the passion he has for the game.”
Mats Zuccarello had a goal and an assist and Spurgeon also scored for the Wild. Sam Steel had two assists to back Filip Gustavsson in his stoppage of Ottawa’s four-game winning streak with 25 saves – including several high-danger stops – against his former team. Right after one of them, Kaprizov got the Wild on the board near the midpoint of the first period with his 19th goal.
”It’s just how hockey goes sometimes. They have the pressure and got some great looks, and then we take the momentum away right away by scoring a nice goal,” Gustavsson said.
Mark Kastelic spoiled the shutout bid for Gustavsson with a goal early in the third period. With 1:40 left, Claude Giroux knocked in a rebound with the Senators to cut the lead to one. Frederick Gaudreau answered with a slap shot on the empty net to seal it with 25 seconds left.
”Can’t fault our effort at the end, but we’ve got to be better in the second period,” Senators coach D.J. Smith said.
The 24-year-old Gustavsson, who was traded to Minnesota on July 12 for fellow goalie Cam Talbot, started the Wild’s streak with 35 saves for his first career shutout on Dec. 10 at Vancouver. He’s fourth in the NHL with a 2.31 goals against average this season.
”The first two periods, they were definitely the better team. They gave us no room to breathe out there,” Kastelic said.
The Wild welcomed Ryan Hartman back from a 21-game absence due to a shoulder injury, slotting him in at right wing on the second line. Steel has proven to be a valuable pivot between Zuccarello and Kaprizov, where Hartman used to be. In the 14 games since Steel was moved up to the first line, the trio has combined for 21 goals and 31 assists.
Early in the second period, Kaprizov broke loose up the right wing and snapped a shot that Senators goalie Anton Forsberg turned aside for a long rebound. Steel snagged it and set up Zuccarello for a one-timer.
That gave Kaprizov 200 career points in his 167th game, the fastest Wild player to reach that milestone and the fourth-fastest player in the NHL since the 2000-01 season to get there behind Sidney Crosby (142), Alex Ovechkin (165) and Evgeni Malkin (166).
Kaprizov still had some more playmaking in store, when he burst between two Senators to thread a slick up-ice pass that Spurgeon snagged in stride before a cut inside to knock a backhander in for the 3-0 lead midway through the second period.
”Even as a teammate you never really know what Kirill’s going to do,” Spurgeon said.
Talbot, who backstopped Ottawa’s 6-3 victory Saturday at Detroit, flashed a reluctant smile and a gave a wave to the crowd when he was shown on the video board during a first-period timeout.
All four wins on Ottawa’s streak were with Talbot, who became the odd man out with the Wild after they re-signed Marc-Andre Fleury to a two-year, $7 million contract.
Forsberg made 19 saves. He gave up goals to Kaprizov and Zuccarello on Oct. 27 in a 4-2 win by the Wild in Ottawa. … The Wild are 13-4-2 in their last 19 games against the Senators. … Zuccarello has seven goals and 10 assists in 18 career games against the Senators. … Senators RW Austin Watson was fined the maximum allowable amount ($4,054) by the NHL for interference in the last game.
Senators: at Winnipeg on Tuesday.
Wild: at Anaheim on Wednesday.
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