Kirill Kaprizov might have trouble topping his NHL debut when the visiting Minnesota Wild meet the Los Angeles Kings again on Saturday night.
The 23-year-old Russian was the star of Minnesota's 4-3 overtime win against the Kings in the season opener on Thursday. He became the first rookie to produce at least three points and score an overtime goal in his first NHL game.
"It was great the way it all happened, but at the end of the day I'm just focusing on the next game," he said through an interpreter. "Make sure this continues through the season."
The game-winner was all Kaprizov, as he intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and scored on a breakaway with 1:13 left in the overtime.
Kaprizov, a five-time All Star in the KHL before making the move to North America, is the first NHL rookie to score an overtime winner in his debut since Tim Sweeney of the Calgary Flames on October 4, 1990.
He also assisted on the first two goals for the Wild.
"He works so hard and so he's very deserving of everything that came his way," Wild defenseman Matt Dumba said. "Yeah, he's something else."
The Kings will look to bounce back behind veteran forwards Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.
The trio combined for two goals and three assists in the season opener, though Brown made a poor decision on his no-look drop pass that Kaprizov intercepted and took the other way for the game-winner.
Kings coach Todd McLellan specifically singled out Carter, the 16-year veteran who underwent surgery in early June to repair a core muscle injury. Carter took advantage of the long layoff to get in top shape.
"He is still a very committed athlete," McLellan said. "He worked very hard on his body and his conditioning. He's always had the skill, the talent and the knowledge to put his game forward, but right now his body's doing a lot for him."
The Kings could use a better performance from their most veteran defensemen, however.
Drew Doughty and his playing partner, Olli Maatta, were a combined minus-5 and their misplays allowed the Wild to erase a two-goal deficit in the third period and get the game into overtime.
The Kings should get some reinforcements on the blue line.
Sean Walker and Kurtis MacDermid were unable to play in the season opener because of coronavirus protocols, but both are expected to be available on Saturday.
Walker was the second-leading scorer among Los Angeles defensemen last season, totaling 24 points (five goals, 19 assists) in 70 games.
MacDermid brings a physical presence that the Kings did not have in the season opener.
"We've got to clean (up) some things so that we're not giving up four (goals)," McLelland said. "We don't expect to score four every night, but we should be able to produce three on a steady basis, but not four. We were on the wrong end of that (Thursday night)."
Keeping better tabs on Kaprizov would be a good start.
He set up Jonas Brodin for the first goal of the game, set up Victor Rask for the second and singlehandedly won the game with his steal and breakaway in overtime.
"More than anything, you just see his competitiveness all over the ice," Dumba said. "That's what makes him so good."
--Field Level Media
|1/14/21||MIN 4 (OT)||LA 3||27||31||0-6||34||23||1-4|
|Minnesota Off vs Los Angeles Def|
|Los Angeles Off vs Minnesota Def|