Cam Talbot carries Wild to win over Flames, makes his case to start Game 1
With the Wild fighting the puck for most of the game, Talbot remained extremely calm in the crease, finishing with 31 saves on the night.
ST. PAUL — With the Minnesota Wild yet to name their Game 1 starter for the first round of the playoffs, and neither general manager Bill Guerin, nor coach Dean Evason willing to tip their hand, Cam Talbot made another strong case for himself in his final start of the regular season.
In a must-win game on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center — at least as far as home-ice advantage is concerned — Talbot helped carry the Wild to a 3-2 overtime win over the Calgary Flames. All with the legendary Marc-Andre Fleury looking on from the bench.
“I was just going out there trying to play my game and trying to play the way I’ve been playing down the stretch here,” Talbot said. “If it is my last start for a while, then so be it. Just trying to go out there and help the team win tonight. That was my focus.”
That’s exactly what he did.
With the Wild fighting the puck for most of the game, Talbot remained extremely calm in the crease, finishing with 31 saves on the night. His effort helped get the Wild to overtime where Kirill Kaprizov finished off a pass from Kevin Fiala to end the game.
While many assumed Fleury would be the guy in the playoffs the moment the Wild acquired him in a blockbuster move at the trade deadline, Talbot has been absolutely spectacular for the past couple of months. In fact, since his last regulation loss on March 1, Talbot now boasts an incredible 13-0-3 record.
Now the Wild can clinch home-ice advantage in the first round by earning a single point against the rival Colorado Avalanche on Friday night at Xcel Energy Center. Had they simply beaten the lowly Arizona Coyotes earlier this week, the Wild would already have home-ice advantage locked up.
“These points were big for us tonight,” Talbot said. “It was a playoff type atmosphere and that’s kind of what we needed after (a loss to the Coyotes) last game.”
That loss is neither here nor there at this point. Especially after the Wild earned an impressive win over the Flames.
“We talked before the game (the Flames) look a lot like the teams we’re going to play in the playoffs,” Evason said. “They’ve got a lot of skill. They play right. They play hard. They’re gritty. It was a nice test to see how we played.”
After getting completely outclassed by the Flames in both matchups earlier this season , the Wild were much more competitive this time around. They battled tough throughout a scoreless first period, bringing a sense of physicality that was nowhere when both teams met a couple of months ago.
The game started to open up in the second period with Hart Trophy candidate Johnny Gaudreau putting the Flames up 1-0 with a slick shot in close. Matthew Tkachuck sparked the sequence by finding Gaudreau on the doorstep with a spinning backhanded pass.
Not long after that, Jonas Brodin helped the Wild level the score at 1-1 with a wrist shot through a Marcus Foligno screen in front.
With the Wild slogging their way through the game after that, and Talbot singlehandedly keeping them in it, Freddy Gaudreau finally rewarded his goaltender midway through the third period with a go-ahead goal to make it 2-1.
“I felt some pressure (and) I tried to put it on net,” Gaudreau said. “I got lucky on that.”
Unfortunately for the Wild, Elias Lindholm helped the Flames tie the game at 2-2 late in the third period with a snipe from the high slot.
That set the stage for overtime where Kaprizov played hero like he has so many times this season.
Was the performance from Talbot enough to earn him the nod as Game 1 starter? That remains to be seen.
“I’ll be ready whenever I’m called upon,” Talbot said. ” That decision is out of my hands. I’m going to continue to work and keep striving to get better and be ready whenever that opportunity arises.”