ANAHEIM, CALIF. – Overshadowed by the late-game rallies and overtime madness from the Wild's 2-0 start was the steadiness of Cam Talbot, a textbook-like ease between the pipes that explained why the team targeted him in the offseason to be its next No. 1 goalie.
But when the goals disappeared and the flair for the dramatics subsided, Talbot's effectiveness stole the spotlight — even in defeat.
Despite a near-perfect performance from Talbot, the Wild's offense came up empty-handed and the team was blanked 1-0 by the Ducks Monday at Honda Center to sit 2-1 on the season.
"His teammates, I'm sure, are kicking themselves for not giving him some run support," coach Dean Evason said.
Talbot stopped 26 pucks to continue an impressive start with the Wild after he signed a three-year, $11 million contract in the offseason to replace Devan Dubnyk, who was traded to San Jose.
The only shot that made it past him was a one-timer from Anaheim's Nicolas Deslauriers 4 minutes, 9 seconds into the third period.
In three starts, Talbot has 87 saves on 94 shots and without the fluky bounces that headlined the pair of overtime wins in Los Angeles last week, his play shined. His counterpart at the other end was also locked in, with John Gibson finishing with 34 stops to record his 20th career shutout and lift the Ducks to their first victory of the season.
"Confidence has been building game after game here," Talbot said. "Tonight's as good as I've felt so far this year. Just going to try to build off that."
Unlike in Los Angeles, goals were impossible to come by for the Wild.
Part of the problem was the team's accuracy.
The Wild struggled to hit the net, a trend of the night captured by one of the team's first chances when center Victor Rask had a look in can't-miss range and heaved the puck wide.
Later, a backhander by center Nick Bjugstad sailed over the net and he also missed the target on a breakaway in the second period. Same with winger Kevin Fiala, who is still searching for his first point of the season.
In all, the Wild had 18 shots miss the net compared to nine for the Ducks.
What only exacerbated the Wild's scoring issues was the team's woeful power play.
After starting the season in a 0-for-11 funk through two games against Los Angeles, the rut crossed county lines into Anaheim.
The Wild blanked on another five tries to sit 0-for-16 overall. Like in Game 2, coach Dean Evason scrambled the team's look — rolling out four forwards on one unit and three defensemen on the other. But nothing sparked the Wild, which whiffed on all nine shots it tested Gibson with during the man advantage.
Anaheim also was unsuccessful on the power play, going 0-for-2.
"We're real happy with the power play," Evason said. "Obviously very disappointed that we haven't scored on it yet. Luckily, the only negative is we didn't get enough pucks to the net."
The overall lack of execution from both teams amplified the goalie battle, and Talbot was ready for it.
He was solid in the early going, turning aside looks from forwards Troy Terry and Ryan Getzlaf on the Ducks' first power play. But Talbot really found a groove as the action progressed.
In the second, he was clutch on a Sonny Milano breakaway, gloved down a rush by winger Max Comtois and gobbled up a shot from defenseman Cam Fowler just outside the crease.
While it might have come across as his first breakout performance of the season, Talbot had the same posture in Los Angeles.
And on a quiet night for the Wild's goal scorers, it was the highlight for the team.
"He did his part," defenseman Matt Dumba said of Talbot. "If it wasn't for that one play, we were right there and that's a credit to him."