Marc-Andre Fleury has played more than 900 games in the NHL and another 150-plus in the playoffs.
He’s a future Hall of Famer with three Stanley Cups and a Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender.
But after debuting in the Wild’s crease following a splashy trade from rival Chicago, he experienced a first.
The goalie nicknamed “Flower” scooped a bouquet off the ice as he did a celebratory twirl after the Wild’s thrilling 3-2 overtime rally over the Blue Jackets on Saturday in front of 19,089 at Xcel Energy Center, an outcome that commemorated Fleury’s arrival with the Wild’s fifth consecutive victory.
“I felt like a figure skater,” he said.
Fleury was appropriately in the spotlight, but he had company.
Captain Jared Spurgeon capitalized 1 minute, 24 seconds into overtime after Kirill Kaprizov scored twice, including the equalizer late in the third period, to climb into second place for the most points in a single Wild season with 80.
Trailing 2-1 and with Fleury on the bench for an extra attacker and just 1:03 remaining in the third period, Kaprizov snaked a shot through traffic for his team-leading 35th goal and third tally over the last two games.
As a result, he passed Brian Rolston for second in points and is just three shy of equaling Marian Gaborik’s record at 83. Kaprizov is also only seven behind the goals record (42).
“The knack to step up, we’ve seen it through history that great players do that,” coach Dean Evason said. “They don’t necessarily score in the 7-1 hockey games. They score in all situations but most importantly in these tight type of games and step up and find a way. He’s a special player.”
That was the Wild’s 18th goal at 6-on-5, a franchise record that leads the NHL.
“Cam told me the team has been really good 6-on-5 so I was hoping for one,” said Fleury, who went on to make a key save against Patrik Laine shortly before Spurgeon’s goal. “But the guys played so good in the third. All period, they were grinding it out and it felt like it was a matter of time. It was a big relief when they got that goal.”
In overtime, Spurgeon slipped a backhander by Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins after accepting a slick Kevin Fiala pass, Fiala’s second setup of the game. Merzlikins finished with 35 saves.
“My plan was to go around, make a move, and I saw both guys came on me,” Fiala said. “Spurgey was alone, so I saw that pass to him.”
This victory kept the Wild in second place in the Central Division, and the team has a three-point cushion over No. 3 St. Louis.
As for Fleury, he totaled 23 saves after the Wild acquired him from the Blackhawks for a second-round draft pick that could turn into a first rounder, a deal that indicated how seriously the team is focused on the postseason.
“This is our group,” Spurgeon said. “Continue to get our game going towards the playoffs is what we’re doing.”
After receiving a loud ovation when he was introduced as part of the starting lineup, Fleury had an uneventful start despite the Wild going on the penalty kill less than a minute into the game.
Not until 4:45 elapsed did Fleury officially make his first stop, which elicited more cheers from the crowd.
Another roar happened when the Wild took advantage of its first power play at 7:26 after Kaprizov slung the puck from along the goal line past Merzlikins.
With the handoff to Kaprizov for the goal, Mats Zuccarello set a new career high for him in assists at 45.
Zuccarello is also tied with Kaprizov for the most helpers on the team, and they’re the second set of Wild teammates to record 45-plus assists in the same season; Mikael Granlund (46) and Ryan Suter (45) also accomplished the feat in 2017-18.
Overall, the Wild power play went 1-for-2 and Columbus was 0-for-2.
But like the last time the Wild faced the Blue Jackets earlier this month, a 3-2 shootout loss on March 11, the team struggled to gain separation and that opened the door for a Columbus rally.
At 8:16 of the second, a bouncing puck eventually caromed in off Fleury’s right skate as he was sprawled on his side; the Blue Jackets’ Jake Bean was credited with the goal. Then, with 1:05 to go in the period, Jakub Voracek converted on a shot from the middle.
“We weren’t really happy with our second period, so we knew we had better,” Spurgeon said.
BOXSCORE: Wild 3, Columbus 2 (OT)
The Wild wasn’t just better; it dominated Columbus, pressure that eventually culminated in goals from Kaprizov and Spurgeon for a turnaround that not only kept the Wild’s roll going but also kicked off Fleury’s Wild tenure with a win.
“It’s all I wanted for the first game here,” he said. “So, I was just happy to celebrate with the guys and keep this streak alive.”