WASHINGTON – It took five more starts, three-plus hours of shutout hockey and a pair of records, but Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk finally ended up where he was supposed to be 10 days ago.
On the bench.
Dubnyk was in the understudy role Saturday when the Wild visited the Capitals. Backup Alex Stalock earned the nod after missing a scheduled start earlier this month to return to the Twin Cities for the birth of his daughter.
With Stalock absent, Dubnyk stayed in the crease and rattled off eight consecutive starts — a run that included 195 minutes, 54 seconds of shutout play before the streak ended Thursday in a 6-4 victory over the Predators.
“Give him a mental break,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “That’s basically what it was. You run with him until they score a goal, and that’s hard to keep up. So I think it’s a good time for him to have a day off and at the same time, Alex has worked hard.”
That preempted start for Stalock seemed to be the catalyst for Dubnyk’s recent tear.
He gave up three goals on 18 shots in a Nov. 8 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the game he was supposed to be a spectator for, but was superb the next night in the second half of a back-to-back — blanking the Canadiens with a 41-save effort before also shutting out the Flyers in consecutive games. His shutout streak was a career high and set the franchise record for a goalie, surpassing the 183:16 run he went on last season.
“It worked out OK,” Dubnyk said. “Everything usually does happen for a reason like that.”
Wild winger Daniel Winnik has never escaped the second round of the playoffs, but he thought he was going to hoist a Stanley Cup not once, but twice, during his time with the Capitals.
“It was going to be us, not Pittsburgh,” he said.
Saturday was Winnik’s first game back in Washington since he signed with the Wild after spending the previous two seasons as a member of the Capitals.
He remembers that tenure fondly but also feels disappointment for how each season ended; the Capitals were bounced from the playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Penguins in the Eastern Conference semifinals after spectacular regular-season performances in which Washington grabbed consecutive Presidents’ Trophy titles as the league’s top point-getter.
“The playoff system, it shows that it doesn’t work when you got the top teams in the league playing each other in the second round,” Winnik said.
If it was up to Winnik, he would scrap the current wild-card format that is mostly division-based and revert to the previous setup that seeded the playoff teams 1 through 8.
“Just have the top-two teams in each division have home ice,” Winnik said. “Next four, it doesn’t matter what division they come from.”
The Wild finally received a helping of secondary scoring in the team’s dramatic, come-from-behind win over the Predators, but it didn’t come courtesy the bottom-six forward group.
Instead, the blue line chipped in three goals — the first time that’s happened in a game this season, with Matt Dumba, Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon contributing to the rally.
“Any team that has defense that can score and puts fear into the other team that they might score is definitely better than the other way around,” Boudreau said. “I mean, if you only have to worry about one player, they’re usually easy to check.”
The Wild scratched defenseman Gustav Olofsson, subbing in Mike Reilly on the third pairing next to Kyle Quincey. Olofsson had played five consecutive games before sitting out.