One goaltender was spectacular. The other was perfect. As duels go, this one served as a master class.
When it was over, the Game 1 headline carried a striking message: The Wild won a playoff game because of impenetrable goaltending.
Brought to the organization this season to provide calm, consistent goaltending, Cam Talbot rewarded that faith in him by blanking the Vegas Golden Knights 1-0 in overtime in what became a fantastic stand-off against Marc-Andre Fleury.
The teams combined for 72 shots, many Grade A chances. Shooters did everything possible to put themselves in position to score. The goalies were just better.
The Wild needed a fortunate bounce to crack Fleury. Technically, Joel Eriksson Ek scored the winner, but in truth, Talbot won the game in the first period by keeping his team afloat during Vegas' all-out attack.
Of Talbot's 42 saves, 19 came in the opening period. The Golden Knights spent the entire period in the offensive zone, peppering Talbot with shots, relentless in their pressure.
Wild coach Dean Evason described his team as "hanging on." The score easily could have been 2-0 after the period. Instead, it was 0-0. That was the game right there.
Calm Cam rose to the moment.
"We weathered the storm," Talbot said.
His performance crystalized why General Manager Bill Guerin changed goalies, moving on from Devan Dubnyk last season. The team's goaltending became too unreliable and simply not good enough for a team trying to build a contender.
Playoff goaltending can elevate or sink teams. Occasionally, goalies need to steal a win in games when the rest of the team is badly outplayed. Game 1 wasn't a case of that, but the Wild likely loses if not for Talbot's brilliance in the first period. Holding Vegas scoreless after that barrage felt like a pivot point.
"His compete [level] and his professionalism is unbelievable," Evason said.
The duel between Talbot and Fleury provided marvelous entertainment. The thievery on display by both goalies caused frustration and incredulous expressions to spill out of shooters denied repeatedly on prime scoring chances.
The Wild registered 12 fewer shots but forced Fleury to make more spectacular saves than Talbot.
Ryan Hartman delivered a handful of point-blank shots that Fleury nabbed with his glove, punctuated by a dramatic whipping motion of his arm to add a bit of theatrics.
"You can't really get frustrated when you're getting chances," Hartman said.
Fleury's best save came against Kirill Kaprizov in the third period. The rookie sensation skated the puck across the front of the goal and appeared to have enough open net to score, but the 36-year-old Fleury contorted his body like Gumby, stretching his right arm as far as possible to swat the puck away.
"I can't control what he's doing at the other end," Talbot said. "Not surprised by it at all. He's a first ballot Hall of Famer. He always comes to play in the big moments, so you expect that from him. I'm just trying to match him at the other end and play my game and not worry about what he's doing."
The circumstances of the only goal scored seemed appropriate. Eriksson Ek's shot deflected off defenseman Alec Martinez, causing some misdirection that disrupted Fleury's save attempt.
Beating either goalie cleanly might not have been in the cards.
Talbot's teammates gave him support by blocking 23 blocks. One sequence stood out as the type of sacrifice necessary to succeed in playoff hockey. Veteran defenseman Ian Cole threw his body to the ice to block a pass that looked like a sure goal if it had been completed.
Talbot handled the rest with a performance that appeared remarkably calm considering the drama and pressure of a scoreless playoff game.
"Cam has been there all year for us," Hartman said, "and he was there again."
The Star Tribune columnist did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews after the game.