Wild show they can win without Kaprizov on scoresheet

RALEIGH, N.C. — When the Wild win, Kirill Kaprizov is usually a factor.

The winger has at least a point in more than 75% of the team's victories, 19 of 25 to be exact, and the Wild have prevailed in 13 of the 21 games in which Kaprizov has scored.

But when he doesn't produce, the Wild haven't always been doomed.

Such was the case on Tuesday when a well-timed lift from the rest of the lineup enabled the team to pick up some momentum at the start of a challenging road trip that continues Thursday at Carolina.

"Kirill can score every game, but he's not going to," coach Dean Evason said. "So it's nice to have other people step up."

Kaprizov was held pointless for just the 10th time this season in the Wild's 4-2 comeback victory against Washington, this after he was involved in four goals over the previous three games.

Actually, no one on the top line was on the ice for any of the Wild's goals and yet the team didn't miss a beat in the offensive third.

That's because the defense was responsible for a season-high three goals, with captain Jared Spurgeon tallying two and Jonas Brodin chipping in the other to help the Wild twice climb out of a one-goal hole before seizing the lead for good.

"It's one thing we preach about this team is that everyone can contribute, and in the O-zone it's anyone's turn," Spurgeon said. "[On Tuesday], the 'D' had the chances, and they were fortunate to go in."

What helped their shots end up in the net was the pressure applied down low by the Wild's best checking lines.

Jordan Greenway was posted up as a screen on Spurgeon's first goal, Ryan Reaves slid into that spot on Brodin's finish and then Brandon Duhaime took over when Spurgeon delivered the game-winner. Joel Eriksson Ek added an empty-net goal in the final minute, but it was those three plays in the second period that were the difference — a back-to-basics clinic that stymied the Capitals.

"I think everybody wants to play that way, but I think sometimes you get stubborn and try and make the pretty play and cross-ice passes," Reaves said. "Sometimes it just doesn't work. I don't think we're built that way. Our line's definitely not built that way, so I think we made it a point to just try and get in front."

The Wild improved to 6-3-1 when Kaprizov doesn't get mentioned in the scoring summary and without those 13 points, the standings would paint quite a different picture — one that would have the Wild three spots lower in the Central Division and well below the playoff cutline in the Western Conference.

Make no mistake, the Wild have achieved the bulk of their success when Kaprizov contributes.

He continues to lead the team in goals (25), assists (27) and points (52) and is nearing a career milestone since he's one goal away from 100 in the NHL.

Just three games ago, he and linemates Sam Steel and Mats Zuccarello were instrumental in the 3-1 turnaround vs. the New York Islanders that snapped the Wild's three-game slide and kickstarted their current three-game streak the other way.

Still, the team is a much tougher matchup when the potential for offense doesn't dip from shift to shift.

"Throughout the season, especially in playoffs, you've got to have that depth scoring," Reaves said. "I think our line, it's time to step up. We talked about it before the [Washington] game. It's been a couple games since we've been on the sheet, so it was good to get on there."