Wild stave off elimination with 4-0 victory at Chicago

Kirill Kaprizov became the first Wild player with three 40-goal seasons, and Jesper Wallstedt earned a shutout for his first NHL victory on Sunday as the Wild beat the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-0, at United Center.

Recalled from Iowa on Saturday, Wallstedt finished with 24 saves as the Wild avoided being mathematically eliminated from postseason contention by earning two points.

Kaprizov scored on a one-timer from the right circle to give the Wild a 1-0 lead early in the second period, burying a cross-ice pass from Matt Boldy at 1:06, then beat Arvid Soderblom with a wrist shot midway through the third period to make it 4-0 with 8:10 remaining.

The young winger has scored four goals in back-to-back games and now has scored at least 41 goals in his three full NHL seasons after scoring 27 in his first, the 55-game COVID season in 2019-20.

He already was the only Wild player to score at least 30 goals in three consecutive seasons.

“He’s such a good player and has so much potential and so much upside,” coach John Hynes told reporters who traveled to Chicago. “I think the upside for him in the next couple years is going to be really impressive, just as he continues to mature, gain confidence. His ceiling is pretty high, and I think over the next couple years, we’re going to see that.”

Marco Rossi and Freddy Gaudreau also scored goals for the Wild, who staved off elimination in their 77th game of the season. They’ll need to win their last five regular-season games, and need Vegas to lose out. With the Predators’ 3-2 victory at New Jersey on Sunday night, the Knights are the only team currently holding a playoff spot that the Wild can still surpass.

When and if Vegas wins another game, or the Wild lost one, it’s officially over. The Knights are at Vancouver on Monday, and the Wild next play Tuesday night in Colorado.

Wallstedt, 21, met the team in Chicago on Saturday afternoon to make his second NHL start. The first didn’t go nearly as well, a 7-0 loss at Dallas on Jan. 10, when he was recalled because Filip Gustavsson was sidelined by a lower body injury. Chicago was a much more favorable matchup for the rookie, and the Wild, than the Stars, who lead the Western Conference with 105 points.

“It’s amazing, especially looking back to that game in Dallas, all these months here with the grind and the work and now to be back here with a win, and a shutout, it’s amazing,” Wallstedt told Bally Sports North in a postgame interview. “I’m just really happy, really thankful. The team played unreal in front of me, kept a lot of the shots to the outside and let me make the first save and took care of my rebounds.”

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