Will coach Dean Evason ever admit that this is a whole different story. But it definitely looked like he was trying to get a message across to Kirill Kaprizov ahead of Thursday’s game against the Dallas Stars.
Not only did Evason downgrade him for the first time this season, he also took Caprice away from Mats Zuccarello, his longstanding safety blanket dating back to last season.
However, when Wild took a penalty in the first 20 minutes of the game, Caprice found himself on the ice with Zuccarello. And, of course, the dynamic duo started working.
After a daring pass by Viktor Rusk, who had been a healthy scratch for a week and a half, Zuccarello found Kaprizov the perfect pass on the doorstep and hit the net. As soon as the puck hit the net, Kaprizov smiled broadly at Zuccarello, who had already rushed to hug. Do you think these guys enjoy playing together?
– Bally Sports North (@BallySportsNOR) November 19, 2021
This connection pushed Wild to an unconditional 7-2 victory over the Stars. This also led Kaprizov to his best performance in recent memory as he finished with one goal and three assists.
While it may seem unfair to say that Caprizov has struggled this season – especially given that he has an equal lead on the team with 15 points (4 goals, 11 assists) – it’s fair to want more from the would-be superstar. He left a lot to be desired this season with his ups and downs and was largely unnoticed on Tuesday when he lost to the San Jose Sharks.
This can explain the decline of Kaprizov before the game on Thursday. Quite frankly, Wild needs more from a 24-year-old Russian, and a little bit of tough love might be exactly what he needs. Heck, even Caprice admitted a couple of weeks ago that sometimes he needs a kick in the ass to get him moving.
It worked that very evening, as Caprice looked set for 60 minutes of play, regardless of whether Zuccarello was by his side.
Kaprizov’s answer turned out to be the story of the evening, but Rem Pitlik actually knocked Wild out of action in the first period with snipes, bringing the score to 1-0. Soon after, Kaprizov scored an accurate pass to Zuccarello, increasing the lead to 2-0.
This sequence effectively forced Evason to reunite Caprice and Zuccarello for the remainder of the first period before he returned to his original lines.
After the squabble of the second period, Ryan Hartman scored a goal at the end of the frame, making the score 3-0 in favor of Wild.
This set the stage for a very interesting third period, in which striker Jacob Peterson helped the Stars close the gap to 3-1 at the start. While this gave rise to some thoughts of a comeback, Alex Goligoski made a 4-1 score a few minutes later, punching his wrist through the traffic jams, and then Caprice made a graceful pass to Freddy Gaudreau, who cashed in and earned 5-1.
After a rather pointless goal from center Jamie Benn, which cut the Stars’ deficit to 5-2, Caprice linked up with Zuccarello to make the score 6-2, and Rusk brought the score to 7-2 in less than a minute.