A shutout in triple overtime to capture the Stanley Cup.
Cam Talbot was 8 years old when he witnessed then-Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy achieve that rare feat, blocking all 63 shots from the Panthers to sweep Florida in four games and clinch the 1996 Cup for Colorado.
"That's one of the first real moments where I realized, 'OK, that's the epitome of the NHL, the epitome of greatness,' " Talbot said. "It was just such a cool moment for an aspiring young goalie to watch."
Talbot is still chasing the stage Roy achieved, an opportunity that has appeared infrequently through his eight NHL seasons. But when he has advanced, Talbot has had a knack for playoff hockey, a prowess he can continue with the Wild when the puck drops on Game 1 against the Golden Knights on Sunday.
"You want to be that guy for your team," Talbot said. "That's what drives me to go out there and give my team a chance to win every night. That's what I try to do during the regular season and just try to carry that over into the playoffs."
This is the fifth time Talbot has moved on to the postseason but only fourth year in which he will play.
After debuting as Henrik Lundqvist's backup with the Rangers, Talbot surfaced in two playoff games in 2014 before New York lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Kings. The next year, the Rangers were back in the Eastern Conference finals, but Talbot was idle the entire run.
His first chance as a starter in the playoffs came in 2017 with the Oilers and after his best regular-season performance to date, Talbot didn't slow down once the games turned more meaningful.
He pitched back-to-back shutouts in Games 2 and 3 in the first round against the Sharks, who were runners-up in the Cup Final the previous year.
"That's when you start getting that special feeling, when you've got a goalie that's playing like that," said the Wild's assistant director of player development Matt Hendricks, who was Talbot's teammate in Edmonton that season.
Goalie leads the way
Following consecutive victories to eliminate San Jose, Talbot won two more in a row to help the Oilers gain an early lead on the Ducks in Round 2. Later in the series, he made a career-high 60 saves in a Game 5 controversial two-overtime loss in which the NHL ruled against goaltender interference on Anaheim's tying goal. Talbot gave up only three goals the rest of the series, but the Oilers were knocked out in Game 7.
"That confidence that he gave the group all season was right there for Game 1," Hendricks said, "and we just really rode his coattails through those playoffs."
Not until last season did Talbot get another crack, with Calgary in the Edmonton playoff bubble, and again he was clutch.
Led by Talbot, the Flames ousted the Jets during the qualifying round. Talbot had a shutout in the decisive Game 4. He had another shutout in Game 3 against Dallas and turned aside a jaw-dropping 57 shots from the Stars in Game 4, but the Stars prevailed in overtime and ran away with the series on their way to meeting the eventual champions — the Lightning — in the Final.
"He kind of went there to share the net on a reset," Wild General Manager Bill Guerin said. "He eventually just took over as the starter and played well in the playoffs."
Under the bright lights
In 23 career playoff starts, Talbot boasts a .923 save percentage and 2.46 goals-against average. The majority of those games, 16, were considered quality starts in which his save percentage was better than the league average for that season. And throughout his playoff career, Talbot has prevented approximately eight goals compared to the league average save percentage for the same number of shots.
"There's a lot of pressure hot spots in a hockey game," Hendricks said, "and when you look at him and he's just taking a sip of water, he keeps his cool. You just kind of breathe easier. You might even be down a goal, and he makes some big saves — just kind of, 'Eh, I've done this before.' You feel confident when you have a guy like that between the pipes."
But it was the way Talbot excelled in the entire second half — getting his game to a crescendo — that enticed the Wild to sign the free agent to a three-year, $11 million contract and hand him control of its crease, and that's been another trend for Talbot.
From January to the end of the regular season last year, Talbot went 9-3-1. In 2017, he was 24-12-2 in that span. March, the last month before the playoffs typically start, has been the best month of his career by far: 39-21-5 with a .930 save percentage, 2.21 goals-against average and nine shutouts.
"You just stay in the moment, make your reads, trust your reads and battle it out from there," Talbot said.
Preparation is done
With division-only play and multiple games in a row against the same team, this season has mimicked the playoffs.
And Talbot's results matched that importance. He finished 19-8-5 with a .915 save percentage, 2.63 goals-against average and two shutouts.
Prep work like that has dovetailed into postseason success before for Talbot.
Soon he'll have the chance at another installment with the Wild.
"My confidence level is high right now because of the team I'm playing behind," Talbot said, "and knowing that if I do leave a rebound or something out there, I don't have to be perfect because the guys in front of me are pretty darn good. It takes a lot of pressure off me. I just feel good about my game and where the team's at right now."