SAN JOSE, Calif. – He was posted up at the other end of the rink, but Cam Talbot still recognized the play was a tough one for a goaltender to face.
Not only was Wild rookie Kirill Kaprizov cutting to the middle with speed, maintaining pace as the puck slid between his legs, but Kaprizov had options with the shot considering his skill set.
"You never know what he's going to do," Talbot said. "He can go short-side, like he did. He can take it and beat you to the far post. He can take it to his forehand and go low blocker. He can beat you in so many different ways."
Kaprizov's near-post shot ended up slipping through Kings goalie Calvin Petersen, the first of two goals in a 4-2 win for the Wild on Friday night and another instant-classic sequence in an already memorable debut season for the 23-year-old.
"The way that he gains speed without literally moving his legs is pretty special," coach Dean Evason said.
The game continued an impressive week by Kaprizov, who engineered quite the makeover of the Wild record book.
On Monday, he passed Marian Gaborik for the most points in franchise history by a rookie in a single season when he notched his 37th.
And the very next game, Kaprizov moved ahead of Gaborik for the rookie goals record after scoring his 19th. The goal was Kaprizov's third in as many games, a streak he pushed to five with his performance Saturday at San Jose when he scored a power-play goal in the third period of the Wild's 6-3 win. He's the first Wild rookie to have a four- or now five-game goal streak and to hit the 20-goal plateau. His goal against the Sharks was his 22nd of the season.
"He's had a lot of good games," General Manager Bill Guerin said. "He's had some off nights, but not many. I just find when Kirill competes and gets involved in the game, even physically sometimes, he's just better that way.
"He's having a great year. I think Gaborik had most of those records, and he wasn't too bad of a player either. Kirill's checked off some pretty big boxes there. It's nice to see. He's earned it. He deserves it, and he's had a great year and there's still time to go. So, hopefully, he can keep padding those records."
Center of attention
Since he was scratched for three games earlier this month, Nico Sturm has been one of the Wild's most consistent contributors.
Aside from creating offense, he's been one of the team's better faceoff options and a reliable penalty killer. The rookie also has been on the ice late in games.
And this impact has come with Sturm at center, his natural position, after he started the season at wing.
"I played with Sturmy for a good chunk of this year," said Nick Bonino, one of Sturm's linemates. "You know every night you're going to get effort and strong 'D' and puck battles. But lately with Zach [Parise], we've found some chemistry.
"We seem to feed off each other and make plays together. It's been great chemistry so far."
Nick Bjugstad remained a healthy scratch Saturday against the Sharks despite getting cleared to return from an upper-body injury that sidelined him April 5.
"He's ready to go," Evason said. "It's clearly difficult to change the lineup when the lineup's playing extremely well.
"We've had a bunch of talks with him, had a good chat with him actually today again, and he's working his butt off in practice."