Kirill Kaprizov had the best season in Wild history as one of the NHL's top scorers, and the addendum he's working on in the playoffs has been equally impressive.
"He is who he is," the Wild's Marcus Foligno said. "He's a gamebreaker, a game changer. He's a big part of our team obviously, and I just feel like he's going to get better and better."
Kaprizov had his latest showstopping performance on Tuesday in Game 5 against the Blues at Xcel Energy Center, scoring twice on the power play to hand the Wild a lead it'd eventually squander in a 5-2 letdown that has the team one loss away from elimination.
But even in a Wild defeat, Kaprizov's effort was commendable.
"He's unbelievable," coach Dean Evason said of Kaprizov, who had a franchise-record 108 points in the regular season to rank fifth in the league. "He's physical. It'd be nice to have 20 of him.
"… He just didn't have enough guys willing alongside him [Tuesday]. But if we had 20 of him, we'd be competing our butts off a little better."
What makes Kaprizov special as a superstar, his combination of skill and tenacity, was what helped him overwhelm St. Louis in the first period.
His first shot at 13 minutes, 15 seconds flew through traffic to elude Blues goalie Jordan Binnington.
For an encore, Kaprizov pried the puck off a much bigger player in Colton Parayko to not only thwart Parayko's clearing attempt but also ultimately set up his second goal, a rising shot he quickly threw on net before two St. Louis players could intervene.
By the end of the night, Kaprizov's seven goals were tops in the Stanley Cup playoffs and the most in a Wild playoff series.
The 25-year-old winger is also one of just three active players to record at least nine goals through his first 12 playoff games; St. Louis' Vladimir Tarasenko (10 goals) and Pittsburgh's Jake Guentzel (nine) are the others.
Only three Wild players have more career playoff goals than Kaprizov: Zach Parise (16 in 44 games), Marian Gaborik (12 in 29) and Mikko Koivu (11 in 59).
"You don't really think about it," Kaprizov said in Russian through an interpreter about his first-period surge. "You're there to do what you can to help your team win and focus on the team game. At the end of the day, that's what I'm there to do is to help the team win in any way I can.
"It's not how I feel after scoring the goals. It's really just how can I continue to help my team win the game, and that's all I was thinking."
Tarasenko had minimal impact during Games 1-4, scoring just once, but he was a force on Tuesday. He had three goals in the third period, including two on back-to-back shots in 1:28, for a natural hat trick that sparked St. Louis to rally past the Wild.
"Happy to win," Tarasenko said. "Obviously happy to score — I'm not going to lie — but more happy to win."
Before completing his hat trick into an empty net, Tarasenko showed what can happen when he gets open ice. His first goal came after he was left alone in front of the Wild net, and swiftly deposited the puck behind goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. On the very next shift, he accepted a drop pass and flung the puck past Fleury's glove.
"His shot can beat goalies from distance," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "But the thing for me right now, watching him play, is the work ethic without the puck. He's reloading hard, checking, being physical. And eventually, he gets a couple opportunities and he buries them."
If the Wild is to extend its season, it'll need a win at Enterprise Center, a feat it has accomplished once in this series with a textbook, 5-1 road victory in Game 3.
"We were just simple and played fast," captain Jared Spurgeon said. "Wasn't anything fancy. We just stuck to our game, stayed patient with it, and took opportunities we did have and when we had them, we capitalized on them. So that's something we're going to have to do."