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Ryan Hartman lifts Wild to 4-2 win over defending Stanley Cup champions

Hartman leads team with 12 goals.

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Minnesota Wild right wing Ryan Hartman celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. David Berding / USA Today Sports
USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL -- Ryan Hartman only makes $1.7 million per season. He signed a team-friendly contract extension on April 22, 2021 and talked at length about how he wanted to be a part of Wild’s core moving forward.

It’s been a match made in heaven.

Already well on his way to the best season of his career, Hartman scored his team-high 12th goal of the season on Sunday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center to lift the Minnesota Wild to a 4-2 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

The goal itself was a thing of beauty as Hartman caught a pass from Kirill Kaprizov, spun around with the puck on his stick, then fired a shot on net to beat goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

“I’m just trying to get it on net,” Hartman said. “I haven’t seen the replay. I don’t really remember how the play panned out. But I know I almost beat him there early that period. He just barely caught a piece of it, so I was definitely going to that side.”

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That makes three straight games with a goal for Hartman as he continues to establish himself as a legitimate scoring threat.

“It’s unbelievable,” Nick Bjugstad said. “Every time he touches the puck in the slot we kind of figure it’s going in. He’s a great player and he’s really finding his way here in the Wild sweater.”

“Obviously he has something going right now,” Rem Pitlick added. ‘We all want to watch him keep riding that wave. And he obviously has the talent to make that magic happen.”

It was a back and forth start to the game before Bjugstad put the Wild in front 1-0 midway through the first period with an incredible individual effort. He collected a loose puck in the neutral zone, made a power move toward the net, then beat Vasilevskiy with a top-shelf snipe.

“Just kind of shot it,” Bjugstad said with a smile. “Sometimes it goes in like that.”

That lead was short lived as winger Corey Perry helped the Lightning tie the game at 1-1 less than a minute later with a top-shelf snipe of his own. Fortunately for the Wild, they responded a few minutes later with Victor Rask scoring to make it 2-1.

The game took a turn in the second period as the Wild failed to take advantage with multiple chances on the power play. To make matters worse, winger Alex Killorn scored for the Lightning midway through the second period to tie the game at 2-2.

Though those missed opportunities could’ve come back to haunt the Wild, Hartman scored midway through the third period to put the Wild in front 3-2. He let out a gigantic fist pump after scoring the goal before his teammates mobbed him in celebration.

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That proved to be the difference as the Wild ratcheted up their defense down the stretch before Marcus Foligno added an empty-net goal to finalize the score at 4-2.

“The commitment level was really high tonight,” Evason said. “Obviously when we’re playing against the Stanley Cup champions our guys are really dialed in.”

Especially Hartman.

“It’s not like he’s getting bounces in,” Evason said of Hartman’s recent hot streak. “He’s shooting it in a specific spot and it’s going in the net. It’s great to see him get rewarded. It’s also great for the team to get rewarded with the way that he’s playing.”

Briefly

Mats Zuccarello did not play in Sunday’s game. He injured his left hand in Friday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets and is considered day-to-day.

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Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy prepares to make a save against Minnesota's Kevin Fiala (22) while Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman defends Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. The Wild won 4-2. David Berding / USA Today Sports
USA TODAY Sports

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