Badly outshot, Wild defies odds to shut out Blues

Shots were disappearing into Cam Talbot’s equipment as if the puck was getting stuck to the goaltender, which it did on one occasion — lodging itself in the cage of Talbot’s mask.

“That’s just good rebound control,” he said.

With Talbot acting like Velcro, nothing snuck behind him and that’s how the Wild flummoxed the Blues 2-0 on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center despite tying the franchise record for fewest shots in a game with 11.

Talbot’s 37 saves secured his second shutout of the season.

“It just seemed like he just smothered everything, swallowed everything up,” coach Dean Evason said. “He was so good. Yeah, we didn’t have possession of the puck a lot. They did. They’re really good. But we hung in there. We hung in there because our goaltender gave us that opportunity to hang in there.”

In his second game in as many nights, the first time he’s started back-to-back games in three years, Talbot won his seventh straight at home while the Wild nabbed its franchise-record 11th in a row at Xcel Energy Center.

The team now embarks on a three-day break sitting comfortably in third place in the West Division after increasing its lead over No.4 St. Louis to six points; No.5 Arizona is 10 back.

Talbot’s reflexes are a major reason why the Wild went into this hiatus on a roll.

“He made some big stops at big times,” Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly said.

After a fight between Ryan Hartman and Brayden Schenn off the opening faceoff, St. Louis established offensive-zone time that had the Wild scrambling.

But with Talbot airtight, the Wild escaped the first period scoreless.

Where Talbot shined was in eliminating second chances off rebounds, covering up many of the Blues’ initial shots.

“Anytime there’s a back-to-back, 10 games in 18 days, you’re trying to do everything you can to swallow up rebounds,” Talbot said, “and put the puck in good places so there aren’t those second opportunities and give our guys every opportunity to take a breather, get a faceoff, get a line change and not get hemmed in too often.”

At the other end of the ice, quality trumped quantity.

BOXSCORE: Wild 2, St. Louis 0

A give-and-go between Marcus Johansson and Kevin Fiala that Johansson buried put the Wild ahead at 5 minutes, 46 seconds of the second on the team’s third shot.

“Kevin had a lot of time,” Johansson said. “So, once I saw that, I just tried to find an area and Kevin made a great play.”

Rookie Kirill Kaprizov made it 2-0 at 15:21, faking inside during a 1-on-1 battle with the Blues’ Torey Krug before veering wide and sending the puck just under the crossbar for his first goal in seven games.

“It was perfect placement, found that little hole there in his armpit and found the net,” Hartman said. “Great goal.”

The finish also gave the Wild two goals on eight shots in the game, a 25% rate that was more than enough cushion for Talbot, who picked up another 13 saves in the third period. The Blues’ Jordan Binnington finished with nine total.

Some of Talbot’s best work, though, came on the penalty kill in the second; the Blues ended up going 0-for-3 on the power play, same as the Wild.

Aside from a glove save on Vladimir Tarasenko, Talbot also absorbed the aforementioned shot with his mask — a slapper from Justin Faulk.

“That’s definitely never happened before,” said Talbot, who has a 1.23 goals-against average and .956 save percentage during his 7-0 run at home.

Despite the one-sided shot counter, this was the sixth time the Wild registered just 11 shots and first since a 5-3 win over Washington on Jan.4, 2014. The game didn’t feel as lopsided, not when Talbot was constantly in the right place at the right time.

But the offense certainly needs recharging, and perhaps the rest from this weekend will do the trick.

“We didn’t have the ‘A’ game or the best game here tonight,” Evason said, “but we had the best result.”

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