LOS ANGELES – "Please score."
That's what was on Wild coach Dean Evason's mind as Kirill Kaprizov rushed the net in overtime, and that's exactly what happened – the cherry on top of an already sweet NHL debut for the Russian rookie.
"It was certainly a fun game," Evason said.
The night didn't start that way, but then Kaprizov took over.
Before he put the finishing touches on a 4-3 comeback in overtime against the Kings Thursday at Staples Center in the team's season opener, Kaprizov impressed by setting up two goals.
His three points are the most recorded by a Wild player in his first game, an offensive takeover that Kaprizov was expected to deliver after wowing with his goal-scoring touch in the Kontinental Hockey League in recent years.
But what also caught Evason's eye was Kaprizov's defensive work and how Wild-first his approach is on the ice.
"What we've seen from him amongst his peers and in the dressing room is nothing but team," Evason said. "There's nothing individually that we have seen so far that says, 'I'm this great guy.' He's a hockey player. He's a team guy. [He] did the right things offensively, sure, but systematically and defensively is what we were more excited about because that is playing to the team game.
"He didn't beat people 1-on-1 and go end to end. He was doing it with his teammates, so that gives us obviously great excitement."
Kaprizov's contributions glossed over a 0-for-6 night for the power play but despite the lack of execution, the Wild liked its setup.
The team generated plenty of looks, putting 11 shots on net with the man advantage.
"We were moving it around well," Parise said. "A little frustration that we hadn't converted on one. I thought we deserved to get one. But they do a really good job in the neutral zone. They play that 1-3-1, and it can a lot of times be tough to skate through."
What helped the Wild overcome those missed chances in the second was a consistent forecheck in the third period.
And the unit that set the tone was the third line, led by winger Marcus Foligno.
He had the game-tying goal, rattling the boards with a hit on Olli Maatta behind the Kings' net, and just seconds later Foligno batted in a bouncing puck for his first goal of the season – only days after signing a three-year, $9.3 million contract extension.
"It's nice to see that we were able to bear down and work harder and go with our structure a little more," Foligno said. "We played that forechecking game, that style that we're really good at."
At the other end of the ice, the Wild pitched a perfect third.
Cam Talbot stopped all 12 shots he faced in the frame and ended up with 31 saves in his first game with the Wild. Two of the goals that snuck by him took caroms off Wild defensemen before rolling into the net.
"I'm sure we're all talking about the offensive side of the puck," Evason said. "[But] defensive side of the puck was awesome as well."