Winter Classic Review: Kyrou Steals The Show In NHL’s Coldest Game On Record

The coldest hockey game ever played in the NHL lived up to the title of a marquee Winter Classic matchup. The Minnesota Wild played host to the St. Louis Blues on New Years Day in a highly anticipated matchup. By the time the players took to the ice for the ceremonial face-off, it was -9 degrees. While the players seemed to take notice of the cold, it certainly didn’t seem to bother the over 38,000 fans in attendance, many of whom were at the rink hours before the game was set to commence. A packed stadium at Target Field, which serves as home to the Minnesota Twins, the presence of city sports legends such as John Randle and former Wild great Mikko Koivu, plus the buildup of anticipation to the game helped raise the atmosphere and kick off the new year on a high note.

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First Period 

It didn’t take long for both the Wild and Blues to get accustomed to the ice. 

The first five minutes of the yearly annual Classic saw Wild backstop Cam Talbot tested early and often by the ruthless St. Louis attack. Talbot looked rather strong, able to track the puck despite the increased number of bounced and odd deflections, but as always in hockey, there is only so much a goaltender alone can do. The Blues were able to get on the board first, scoring 5:31 into the game. Following a successful St. Louis penalty kill, winger David Perron got the best of Talbot, capitalizing on a rebound that found its way to the forward, who buried his 250th career NHL goal outdoors. Defenseman Marco Scandella and Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly were credited with the assists on the goal.

It didn’t take long for the Wild to even things up. Just 25 seconds after the opening goal, Kirill Kaprizov rushed down the left wing, using his strength to shield the puck from defender Colton Parayko before throwing the puck on net from a sharp angle almost behind the net. While Kaprizov’s line-mate Mats Zuccarello was ready in front of the net to put the puck past Jordan Binnington, the puck went in without ever touching his stick. Kaprizov’s shot hit off of Niko Mikkola’s stick and beat the Richmond Hill native, as Kaprizov got his team on the board in his first outdoor NHL game. Ryan Hartman continued to build upon his career year, as he was credited with an assist on Kaprizov’s goal.

The rest of the period featured some chances from both sides, however, it was the visiting Blues who seemed to have the upper hand. Ending the period having killed two penalties and leading in the shot column by more than double of the home team, St. Louis looked poised to claim the lead in the contest sooner or later.

Second Period

The Blues looked strong right from the get go, and despite only finding the back of the net once in the first, it was only a matter of time before they took the lead. Not many could have predicted what the Blues would have in store in a historic second period, as they looked to silence the home crowd. The 2022 Winter Classic saw Jordan Kyrou play some of his best hockey, and his career night began in the second period. Just 27 seconds into the middle frame, Kyrou put the Blues back in the lead beginning what would be a historic offensive onslaught for his team. 

Following Kyrou’s tie-breaking marker, the play shifted back and forth, with both sides coming across with some great scoring chances. While the Blues continued to build upon their offensive momentum from the first period, the Wild also began to generate opportunities of their own. They worked on cycling the puck more so then they had done in the first period, and as such, they were able to generate some decent looks in the first hall of the second period. Kaprizov even had another couple of strong looks from behind the goal line, similarly to where he scored the Wild’s first goal of the game. 

The back-and-forth flow of the game would not last very long. With just under nine minutes into the second period, Vladimir Tarasenko ripped home a one-timer courtesy of Kyrou to increase the Blues lead by two. A slashing call against Minnesota’s Nico Sturm a couple of minutes after the Blues third goal saw St. Louis score their fourth goal of the contest and their third of the period. In his first game back from COVID Protocols, Ivan Barbashev hurried home the rebound off of Kyrou’s initial shot. 

With three points in the second period, there was no stopping Jordan Kyrou. Fresh off of a three-point night against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday, Kyrou wanted to not only end off 2021 on a high note, but enter 2022 even higher. Sniping home the Blues fourth goal of the period, Kyrou not only extended the Blues lead 5-1, but he himself made history. By having a part in all four second period goals, Kyrou now holds the record for the most points in a single Winter Classic having beaten the previous high of three points in a single period. His four point night leaves Kyrou with seven points in his last two games. 

After Kyrou’s record setting second goal of the Winter Classic, Rem Pitlick potted a goal of his own within the following minute. Another shot behind the goal line took a couple of bounces before finding twine. Pitlick’s shot deflected off of Scott Perunovitch’s stick, only to bounce off the back of Binnington’s mask, subsequently falling behind the Blues backstop to give the Wild their second goal. The Wild hoped to build off of that momentum before the period ended, however, that didn’t go as planned. With 41 seconds left in the game, Blues defenseman Torey Krug fired a wrister of his own that went right past beat Talbot, which increased their lead back to three goals of the home squad. All three of the goals scored by Kyrou, Pitlick, and Krug were scored in a 1:21 span to conclude a goal scoring frenzy of a middle frame. The Blues recorded another 14 shot period, while the Wild increased their offensive effort, wiring nine shots on goal. After 40 minutes, the Blues led in the shot department by a score of 28-15. St. Louis also set a record for the most goals in a single period at a Winter Classic with five tallies.

Third Period

Entering the third period, the Wild saw a goaltender change. Cam Talbot was pulled in favour of Kaapo Kahkonen to start off the final 20 minutes of the game. After it all ended, Dean Evason confirmed that Talbot was pulled due to a lower-body injury. Despite starting the period, Kahkonen didn’t spend much time between the pipes. Looking strong early on when called upon, Kahkonen didn’t allow a goal on the four shots he faced across just 12:15 of ice time. Just under nine minutes into the final frame, Hartman capped off a great team passing play to help his team inch back right into the fight. The Wild had turned a new gear in the game, dominating puck possession and shots in the offensive zone. After a long battle, Kaprizov was hit by the elbow of Colton Parayko, which sent the Wild back to the power play. With just under eight minutes left to play and on the man-advantage, Minnesota opted to pull Kahkonen, a bold strategy with so much time left on the clock, however, one that proved to be the right decision by the Wild bench boss.

The Wild were not able to capitalize on the power play, but continued to create plenty of high-danger scoring chances. Once the power play concluded, Minnesota kept the extra attacker out, as at that point, they had all of the momentum. With just over five minutes left, Kevin Fiala got in on the scoring to decrease the deficit and give the Wild a glimmer of hope. Fiala scored after a highlight-reel pass along the boards, which he found from Kaprizov, able to make quick work of Binnington and burry the puck between the pipes. The remainder of the game had the Toronto native playing at his “A”-game. Stopping multiple chances that looked like surefire goals, the Blues backstop channeled the former Blues greats featured on his Winter Classic mask, whom he paid great tribute to by keeping the Wild at bay.

Binnington’s heroics were highlighted by a beautiful save with the knob of his stick on the shot put on net from Kirill Kaprizov. Even in the dying seconds of the game, Minnesota continued to battle hard, ending the game with yet another dangerous scoring chance. 

The Wild’s third period was their best, as they were able to keep St. Louis off the score sheet despite playing almost half of the game without a goaltender. Even more impressive was the fact that despite entering the final frame trailing heavily in shots, they finished the battle with 33 after an 18 shot period, ahead of the Blues 32 shots, as they were held to just four shots on goal.

Evan Frost/Getty Images North America

A hard fought and highly entertaining Winter Classic proved to be well worth the wait. Two years in the making after the matchup originally scheduled for New Years Day 2021 was pushed to 2022, Minnesota was finally able to put on the event they had been waiting for and absolutely nothing would stand in its way. Not even the fact that it was the coldest NHL game on record, and one of the coldest recorded sporting events in North America could deter fans away from a packed Target Field.

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