Kaprizov scores twice as Minnesota Wild edge Vancouver Canucks 2-1
VANCOUVER — Stopping Kirill Kaprizov is no easy feat — just ask the Vancouver Canucks.
The Russian left-winger scored twice Thursday — including his 39th goal of the season — and led his Minnesota Wild to a 2-1 victory over Vancouver (24-32-5).
“We didn’t have an answer for No. 97," said Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet. "Man, he’s a hell of a player. He was a difference maker.”
Kaprizov's first tally of the night came just 44 seconds into the game.
He sent a pass to Jared Spurgeon from behind the net, then snuck to the side of the crease where, unmanned, he collected the puck from Mats Zuccarello and tapped a quick shot in behind Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko.
Early in the second period, Kaprizov struck again.
He darted into Vancouver territory on a breakaway and unleashed a rocket, only to see Demko make a stop with his right pad. The netminder couldn't contain the rebound, though, and Kaprizov fired the errant puck over Demko's left shoulder to put Minnesota up 2-1 with his 39th goal of the season 3:40 into the game's middle frame.
“He’s a great player. Skilled, fast. He’s got all the attributes to be a star in this league and he already is," said Vancouver defenceman Kyle Burroughs.
"For us, it's a letdown that he did what he did tonight. For us on the back end, obviously we're trying to limit what he does and not let him get those opportunities. But we'll go back and look at it and see how we can kind of bounce back from it.”
Thursday's result extended Minnesota's point streak to eight straight games (7-0-1). The Wild (35-21-6) have not lost in regulation since Feb. 15 and Kaprizov has eight goals and an assist across that stretch.
"He's consistent, right?" said Wild coach Dean Evason. "Sure, you look at his scoring, he's consistent but he's consistent in his work ethic, he's consistent in his team-first mentality, and obviously he's got a skill set that allows him to score goals.”
The Canucks levelled the score at 1-1 with a power-play marker ahead of the first intermission.
Stationed on the goal line, Vitali Kravtsov sliced a pass to Brock Boeser and the right-winger blasted a one-timer past Minnesota goalie Marc-Andre Fleury 14:03 into the opening frame.
Kravtsov earned an assist on the play, marking his first point in a Canucks jersey. Vancouver acquired the 23-year-old right-winger from the New York Rangers for depth forward Will Lockwood and a seventh-round pick in the 2026 draft on Saturday.
The goal ended a streak where the Wild killed off 27 straight penalties across 14 games.
Vancouver went 1 for 3 on the power play Thursday, while Minnesota was 0 for 4.
The Wild had a prime opportunity to cushion their lead when the Canucks took back-to-back penalties midway through the second.
Burroughs was called for holding and nine seconds later, Elias Pettersson joined him in the box for putting the puck over the glass, giving the Wild a two-man advantage for a minute and 51 seconds.
The Canucks — who came into Thursday's game having killed a league-worst 66.7 per cent of their penalties — managed to weather the adversity with Demko stopping all three shots he faced across the stretch.
Demko stopped 34-of-36 shots in his first start at Rogers Arena since suffering a groin injury on Dec. 1.
The goalie said the long layoff gave him an opportunity to work on other parts of his game, both physiologically and mentally.
"It was a lot of time, and I think I allocated it really well," he said. "Obviously, I was on the ice a lot coming back and just tried to learn from my experience at the beginning of the year, if not anything and try to make improvements.
"And obviously I’ve still got to keep getting better, as this year kind of winds down. But definitely feel good coming back.”
Fleury made 21 saves for Minnesota and improved to 15-3-2 against the Canucks across his career.
Miller returned to the Canucks' lineup after suffering a lower-body injury in Vancouver's 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday. The team said Monday that the 29-year-old centre was "week-to-week" with the ailment.
FIRST NATIONS CELEBRATION
Vancouver held its fifth annual First Nations game and celebrated the life of former Canuck Wayne "Gino" Odjick, who died in January at 52. Players wore special warm-up jerseys designed by Odjick's cousin, artist Jay Odjick, each emblazoned with the legendary enforcer's name and No. 29 on the back. "Gi-no!" chants were heard several times throughout the night and in-game entertainment featured a number of Indigenous performers, including the Juno-nominated Snotty Nose Rez Kids.
Canucks: Continue a six-game homestand Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Wild: Visit the Flames in Calgary on Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2023.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press