In Kamloops, British Columbia, during his junior career, his nickname was “Giraffe,” not only because he stands 6-5, “but because I have a long torso,” Devan Dubnyk said, laughing, after backstopping the Wild to its first two-game winning streak in two months Saturday night, a 3-1 triumph over the Arizona Coyotes, the team for which he played three days earlier.
Dubnyk loves giraffes so much, Swedish artist David Gunnarsson comes up with unique giraffe designs for all of his masks.
Before Saturday’s Hockey Day Minnesota finale, Dubnyk walked into the Wild locker room at Xcel Energy Center and found that his old Coyotes mask — the one he wore in Buffalo two days before during the Wild’s biggest blowout win in history (7-zip) — had a vinyl Wild logo wrap over the paint job. Still left on the back, though, was a picture of his son, Nathaniel Cruise Dubnyk, with the birth date “8-12-13” and the word “Mom.”
“It’s pretty cool,” Dubnyk said of the speedy work done by DePaul Lettering’s Paul Deutsch, the same guy who was once the Wild’s emergency goalie in a pinch at age 51. “I’ve never seen that before on a mask. The plain white one goalies wear after getting traded makes you look like an outcast.
“This made me feel like home.”
If Dubnyk keeps playing like he has in two games in a Wild sweater, Minnesota might stay his home. It’s early, but the goalie who coincidentally and “weirdly” stayed at the same hotel Friday night as his old Coyotes teammates, who dined with them and weirdly walked to the game with them, beat his buddies with 25 saves.
He stayed poised, he said, by drawing off an early-season experience of playing his old Oilers for the first time.
“I just try to make the picture small and not worry too much about the situation and just concentrate on the game,” he said.
Coach Mike Yeo said Dubnyk has done a terrific job instilling confidence in his new team by playing big, swallowing shots and playing the puck smoothly for his defensemen. In fact, he also recorded his second career assist on Jason Zucker’s breakaway winning goal in the second period.
Dubnyk bypassed a couple of Coyotes to get the puck to Zucker. On a Coyotes change, Zucker gave the puck to Justin Fontaine, who chipped it back to the speedster for his 16th goal. After the Coyotes pushed hard in the third period and Dubnyk was there every step of the way, Zach Parise added an empty-netter to tie Zucker for the team lead in goals.
Charlie Coyle, who played a fabulous game, also scored a first-period goal, and defenseman Marco Scandella was stellar in his return from a concussion with no practices. Scandella was a plus-3 in 24 minutes, 48 seconds as the Wild won two in a row for the first time since Nov. 16-20 and beat a Western Conference team at home for the first time since Nov. 16.
After opening the season 7-1 at home, the Wild had lost 10 of 13 at home (3-5-5) and seven of its past eight (1-3-4).
“We always take pride in playing here,” Coyle said. “As of late, we’ve dipped and it’s not a good feeling. We want to play well for the fans. We want to be a good home team. It’s hard enough on the road to string wins together, so we have to be good here. So that’s a nice start to get things going again.”
The Wild had control of the game until Mikko Koivu turned the puck over in the second period and had to take a penalty. Antoine Vermette scored on the power play, and the Wild had to hang on the last half of the game as Dubnyk faced 17 of the game’s final 24 shots.
After the game, Dubnyk got a loud ovation when named the game’s second star.
“That was a special moment for me that I won’t forget any time soon,” he said. “I’ve been here for a lot of games, and it’s always a tough place to play. So it’s very exciting for me to be on the right side of it.”