The performance was a dud, to put it kindly. Sloppy mistakes, careless passing, no real focus.

The Wild coughed up turnover after turnover against Anaheim — one of the two worst teams in the NHL — in a textbook case of playing down to the competition. It was a moment ripe for a letdown loss earlier this month in the final push of the regular season.

Then the rookie sensation decided he'd had enough of that nonsense.

Kirill Kaprizov skated the puck up the wing in overtime, fired a shot from the circle, kept moving toward the goal, corralled his rebound in traffic and tapped in the game-winner. A piece of cake.

Just like that, overtime was finished after 17 seconds.

That singular play — and many others from the Thrill's rookie archive — helps explain why the Wild's playoff fate doesn't feel as hopeless as in previous years. The lineup finally has a true goal scorer, a guy who can make a play on his own in clutch moments.

Who needs puck luck when you have a superstar?

Think back to all the Wild's postseason flameouts, and one theme ran through them. Their inability to score when the ice shrinks and the action becomes more tightly contested.

There was a broken-record conversation after every failed playoff series, especially against the Chicago Blackhawks. From players to management, the Wild lamented scoring droughts and not being able to finish scoring chances and being this close to snapping out of it. As if generating chances without a payoff was somehow more palatable.

Ultimately, they lacked a player of Patrick Kane's skill to score when the moment absolutely called for it.

Kaprizov's presence changes perceptions. The Wild might not be favored against Vegas in the first round, but the lineup seems more equipped to provide offense and overcome deficits because of No. 97.

The rookie's creativity and scoring flair are special qualities that look like gifts as much as traits developed and honed through hours of practice. He leads the Wild in goals, points, power-play goals, overtime goals and are-you-kidding-me moments.

If he's not already in the superstar category, he will be soon.

Athletes with unique talent have a certain effect on paying customers. Listen to the sound inside Xcel Energy Center when Kaprizov gets the puck on his stick with room to maneuver. There is a sudden burst of cheers in anticipation that something spectacular might happen.

I went to a Wild practice before the season to see Kaprizov skate in person after hearing and reading endless tributes preceding his arrival. He stood out as much as any player can stand out in practice drills.

"I want him to come in and be a part of the team," General Manager Bill Guerin said in a phone conversation later that day. "He's not our saving grace. He's not here to take us to the promised land. He's a player on our team, and we're hoping he's a very good player."

I complimented Guerin on his scripted answer.

"Thanks, I've been rehearsing it," he said, laughing.

Kaprizov has lived up to the hype and then some, and how often does that happen in sports?

The playoffs bring a different level of pressure and intensity. Kaprizov will be a marked man, undoubtedly at the top of Vegas' scouting report.

The Golden Knights tried to bully him with some physical play in a late-season game. It felt like a message being sent, to see how the rookie would react to roughhouse hockey. Kaprizov stood up for himself and got into a mini-scuffle.

He didn't back down or look intimidated or thrown off his game. He scored twice in the third period to give the Wild a lead in what became a 3-2 overtime loss.

The tempo in this series should be fast-paced. Their matchups in the regular season offered some highly entertaining hockey.

At some point, the Wild will need a clutch goal. As this season has revealed, getting the puck to the rookie in that situation is never a bad idea.