There may have been times, when Devan Dubnyk was younger, less experienced, that watching a goalie playing so well at the other end of the rink might have gotten inside his head.
Not these days.
Friday night at Xcel Energy Center, there was hardly enough space on the ice to breathe, much less operate. With Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy making huge saves down the stretch and into overtime, Dubnyk did what he’s done most of this season:
Dubnyk stopped 26 of 27 shots through three periods and in overtime, then was perfect in the shootout as the Wild beat the Lightning 2-1. Wild captain Mikko Koivu went to his trusty backhand, scoring the only goal in the shootout, while Tampa’s Brayden Point, Jonathan Drouin and Nikita Kucherov all failed to score on the other end.
The Wild had several opportunities early in periods and late in the third period and overtime — Zach Parise, for example, did just about everything a player can do but score — but Dubnyk made sure the puck stopped with him. In the process he won his 30th game, putting him No. 1 in that category in the league. And that stat, for sure, is the most important one.
“That’s the most important one, yeah,” said Dubnyk, whose only goal allowed came 17 minutes, 16 seconds into the second period, on a rather fluky deflection by Point off a shot from above the circle. The goal came less than 3 minutes after Nino Niederreiter’s backhand through Vasilevskiy’s legs off a rebound on the power play had given the Wild a 1-0 lead.
“That’s the one you want to be on top of,” Dubnyk continued. “But it’s fun. It’s been a great season so far, with the feeling in the dressing room. With how much we’ve enjoyed this and don’t want it to end.”
Against a rather desperate and hardworking Lightning, in a game Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said felt like a playoff game, the Wild bounced back from Wednesday’s overtime loss to Chicago. The Wild is now 15-8-6 in one-goal games this season.
“There wasn’t a lot of room out there,” Boudreau said. “There was not a lot of missed assignments. We didn’t see a lot of odd-man rushes. … We weren’t going to let Kucherov or Drouin be the game-breakers. And our guys did a good job.”
As tight as it was, the Wild had chances, especially early in all three periods. But Minnesota connected only once. And, as the third period wore on, it was Tampa Bay that started controlling the play.
That is, until Parise got going.
He created his own breakaway with less than 5 minutes left in regulation, then was wonderful in the overtime.
“I told him in Vancouver, I said, ‘If things were going good for you, you would’ve had five points tonight,’ ” Boudreau said. “In Winnipeg it was similar. And tonight was another one where, if this was the year he had 100 points, he would have had five of them tonight because of the opportunities. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen somebody work so hard.”
Ultimately, all that hard word was rewarded.
“We don’t want to get in a slump,” said Niederreiter, who has three goals and five points in his past three games. “That’s something that we have [had] in the past, and we want to make sure we avoid them.”
Thanks in large part to Dubnyk, the Wild bounced back again.
“I like watching other goalies play well,” he joked. “Just not in the game I’m playing in. But you have to be sharp in your own end as well, because he was obviously doing that down there.”
Said Boudreau: “That was as good as he’s played in recent memory. He allowed two in Winnipeg when the [faced] 40 and tonight he allowed one. He’s back on track. I think the team is playing a little better defensively, too.”