The 2021-22 NHL Playoffs didn’t begin the way that the Minnesota Wild intended when they lost Game 1 of their opening round series against the St. Louis Blues, 4-0. Fortunately, the Wild didn’t let the loss get the best of them as they rebounded with a 6-2 victory in Game 2, led by Kirill Kaprizov as he scored the first postseason hat trick not only of his career but in franchise history.
There’s no doubt that Kaprizov’s trio of goals will be remembered fondly by Wild fans in the near future, but where does his Game 2 performance against the Blues rank when it comes to the franchises’ other single-game playoff showings? For that, here’s a look at some of the best solo performances in franchise history, taking things like the context and the series score into consideration.
Honorable Mention: Cam Talbot — May 16, 2021
Just like with any list, it’s hard to narrow down the selection. That’s why it was important to still mention Cam Talbot’s terrific goaltending performance in Game 1 of the 2020-21 playoff series between the Wild and the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Wild entered the postseason as the No. 3 team in the West Division following the COVID-shortened campaign, while the Golden Knights were the favorites to win the series after finishing seven points ahead of their counterparts. Both teams boasted talented offenses, but it was a goaltending duel that stole the show in the series-opening contest.
Talbot turned away each of the 42 shots that he faced that night before Joel Eriksson Ek won the game for the Wild in overtime, 1-0. The 42 saves that Talbot made are the most in a playoff shutout by any Wild goaltender in franchise history, which is why it’s still a performance that’s fondly remembered even though it may have ended up higher on the list had Minnesota won the series.
4. Kirill Kaprizov — May 4, 2022
Once the 2021-22 NHL Playoffs began, fans were wondering if Kaprizov could keep up his impressive offensive pace after racking up 47 goals and 108 points in 81 regular-season games. As mentioned before, the Blues’ Game 1 shutout was hardly the outcome that they had hoped for, leading to the dynamic Russian taking matters into his own hands in Game 2.
Kaprizov’s first marker of the postseason came as the Wild were on the power play with under a minute left in the first period. He ended up jamming home a Mats Zuccarello wrist shot from the point, giving his team the 3-0 lead in the process. The Blues made things closer as the score was 4-2 with just over eight minutes left in the third period. Fortunately, a 2-on-1 rush between Zuccarello and Kaprizov resulted in the latter’s second goal of the game before eventually adding an empty-net goal for the first hat trick in Wild playoff history.
Kaprizov’s performance played a massive role in the Wild evening up the series and will be a memory that fans replay for a long time. However, there’s still much of the series left to be played, so time will tell just how important his hat trick was in the grand scheme of things.
3. Nino Niederreiter — April 30, 2014
When the Wild acquired Nino Niederreiter from the New York Islanders in July 2013, the hope was that he could become an impact player one day. Fortunately, the former fifth overall selection in 2010 didn’t take long to make his mark in Minnesota, becoming a playoff hero in just his first season with the franchise.
The Wild drew an opening-round matchup with the Central Division-leading Colorado Avalanche during the 2013-14 playoffs. The Avalanche proved to be a tough task by taking the 2-0 series lead to start, but the Wild managed to eventually even things up and force a Game 7. The two teams were evenly matched in the series-deciding contest, needing overtime to solve things after being tied 4-4 at the end of regulation.
Niederreiter had already scored his first goal of the postseason earlier in the game and also had an assist on Jared Spurgeon’s game-tying marker in the third period. He eventually assumed the role of overtime period just over five minutes into the extra frame when he held the puck on a 2-on-1 with Kyle Brodziak, beating Semyon Varlamov to give the Wild the 4-3 series win.
Niederreiter’s overtime-winning goal is memorable because it marked only the third time in franchise history that the Wild won a playoff series. It also solidified him as a player that the fanbase hoped management could build around for years to come, although he was eventually traded in a deal that many wished the Wild could take back. Even if that’s the case, it doesn’t change the fact that Niederreiter’s three-point effort is one that’ll be fondly remembered for years to come.
2. Zach Parise — April 28, 2014
Although a decline in play and an expensive contract led to his removal from the ‘State of Hockey,’ Wild fans will never forget Zach Parise’s contributions to the franchise. That claim is specifically true when it comes to his performance during the 2013-14 playoffs. In fact, Niederreiter wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to play postseason savior had it not been for Parise’s efforts just two nights before.
The Wild entered Game 6 of their 2013-14 series against the Avalanche down 3-2 following a heart-breaking overtime loss in the previous contest. It didn’t take long for Parise to lead by example in the sixth game, giving Minnesota the 1-0 lead on the power play only 49 seconds into the matchup. The Wild’s former alternate captain helped make it 2-0 by being the secondary assist on Mikael Granlund’s first-period goal before the Avalanched eventually tied it 2-2 by the end of the second period.
Some teams may have crumbled under the pressure that comes from a blown lead, but not Parise and the Wild. The Minneapolis, MN native gave his team the lead back with his second goal of the game at 13:31 into the third period before adding another secondary assist on Jason Pominville’s goal that made it 4-2 with less than 90 seconds remaining. By the time the game had finished, Minnesota had won 5-2, forcing the aforementioned Game 7.
Parise’s four-point performance in Game 6 is remarkable for multiple reasons. For starters, it’s still the only four-point playoff night in Wild history. Secondly, the club likely would’ve been eliminated by the Avalanche had it not been for his putting the team on his back that game.
1. Manny Fernandez — April 22, 2003
The best single-game playoff performance in Wild history comes from goaltender Manny Fernandez way back in the 2002-03 NHL season. It actually occurred during the organization’s first-ever playoff series as the Wild faced the Avalanche in Round 1 in what was the former’s first-ever playoff series.
Dwayne Roloson opened the series as the Wild’s starting goalie but plans quickly changed after the team went down 3-1 after the first four games. The Wild clearly found some new confidence with Fernandez between the pipes, resulting in them rattling off back-to-back victories to force a Game 7. Although Andrew Brunette eventually scored the game-winning goal to give his team its first playoff series victory, it was Fernandez’s performance that captured a lot of the attention.
The Wild have a special roster this postseason, and Kaprizov has already proven that with his hat trick performance against the Blues in Game 2. All eyes will be on him and the rest of the club to see if anyone else is capable of having a performance worthy of landing them on an updated version of this list one day.
As a lifelong hockey fan and recent Master of Journalism graduate, it’s always been my dream to write about the sport. That’s why you can find me here on THW covering the Minnesota Wild! You may also see my work on FanDuel, the Ottawa Citizen, and various sports betting sites. Follow me on Twitter @devplat!