While T-Mobile Arena roared with delight at each spectacular save by Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury at one end of the ice, Minnesota’s Cam Talbot quieted the building on the other.
The Wild goalie finished with 42 saves in a 1-0 overtime victory Sunday in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series.
“I just have to focus on my game,” Talbot said. “I can’t control what (Fleury’s) doing on the other end. I’m not surprised by it. He’s a first ballot Hall of Famer. He always comes to play in the big moments, so you expect that from him. Just trying to match him at the other end, just play my game, make the saves and give my guys a chance to win.”
That’s what he did, particularly early when he stopped 19 first-period shots to prevent the Knights from capitalizing on a dominant stretch.
“He carried us on his back in the first period,” said forward Joel Eriksson Ek, who scored 3:20 into overtime. “They came out hard, but he was amazing and then we just got better and better.”
Added Minnesota coach Dean Evason: “We were hanging on. The goaltender kept us in it.”
Talbot had a good season, but there wasn’t much about his recent form to suggest the kind of effort he gave Sunday. He had allowed at least three goals in each of his past six starts.
The 33-year-old has a track record of postseason success, though. He entered Sunday with a .923 save percentage and 2.46 goals-against average in 23 playoff starts. The Game 1 shutout was the fifth of his postseason career.
“Not a surprise,” Evason said of the performance. “His compete and his professionalism are unbelievable. We talked right from the start of the year about the calming influence he had on our group and the leadership that he provides on the ice. Visually, emotionally, he’s just a real solid pro, and it filters down to the group.”
It’s something his teammates have come to expect from Talbot, who signed a three-year deal with the Wild in free agency after spending last season in Calgary.
“He was huge, especially being on the road,” forward Ryan Hartman said. “A team can get some momentum by getting some opportunities, especially Vegas. They feed on scoring goals and rolling over a shift right after a goal. Cam has been there all year for us.”
Talbot credited the skaters for making his job easier, matching the Knights’ physicality, blocking shots and clearing any potential traffic or rebounds from the front of the net.
The Wild set a postseason franchise record for hits with 71, including a franchise-best 11 by Jordan Greenway. It was the ninth-most by a team in a playoff game since 2000.
Minnesota also blocked 23 shots, including 11 in the first period.
“That’s what playoff hockey is all about,” Talbot said. “We exemplified that in the first period and carried it all the way through. Anytime you’re out there sacrificing the body, that’s what it takes to win this time of year. We had that in spades tonight. Give the guys a ton of credit for putting their bodies on the line.”