MONTREAL – Even though Bruce Boudreau has implied that Devan Dubnyk’s all-world play this season has been too under the radar, he wasn’t about to throw gas on the billed Dubnyk vs. Carey Price show Thursday night.
“Carey Price is the gold standard and always will be probably until he retires,” the Wild coach said earlier Thursday.
While Boudreau wanted no part of the “who has been the best goalie in the NHL” chatter, he was all for using the Montreal Canadiens as a “measuring stick.”
The Canadiens were the best home team in the NHL and usually lock it down when scoring first, so he wanted to see if his red-hot squad was up for the test. Well, A’s all around as the Wild twice rallied from one-goal deficits to beat the Habs 4-2 at the Bell Centre.
“They’ve got a great record, they’ve got a great record at home, they’ve got a good team. And we’ve got a good team, too,” veteran Eric Staal said. “It was tight. There wasn’t a lot of room. You had to fight for every inch.”
Staal scored his first shorthanded goal in four seasons 3 minutes, 8 seconds into the third period to break a 2-2 deadlock. The Wild, one game after killing four third-period power plays to beat Colorado, then killed three in the third this time around to extend its win streak to nine games and its point streak to 10 (9-0-1). Both tied franchise records, the win streak being the longest since 2007.
“Tying is like kissing your sister,” said Boudreau, who has had five win streaks of nine or more games in his career. “Getting it is the nice thing. Our job’s not done. We’re going to try out butts off [Friday against the Rangers].”
After a scoreless first period in which Dubnyk and Price were living up to the hype, the Wild rallied twice during a four-goal second period with goals by Jordan Schroeder, in the lineup only because Zach Parise was ill, and Jared Spurgeon.
“Big confidence booster for myself,” said Schroeder, who awoke what Boudreau called a “down” bench after Max Pacioretty’s shorthanded goal gave the Wild its first deficit since Dec. 9.
Artturi Lehkonen scored to make it 2-1, but Dubnyk, who hasn’t allowed more than three goals this season, shut the door from there after Spurgeon tied the score 2-2 with a bar-down beauty.
“Once they got two, I had all the confidence in the world,” Boudreau said. “It’s like [Dubnyk] says, ‘OK, that’s it. That’s all they’re getting,’ and that’s all they got.”
Early in the third, Staal scored his 17th career shorthanded goal and team-lead-tying 11th goal for his fifth winning goal. Jason Zucker, arguably the Wild’s best forward on this night, sealed the victory with an empty-net goal to cap a two-point game.
“I thought we never quit and we always believed,” Boudreau said.
Dubnyk, rock bottom in 2014 when he was a Canadiens farmhand, made 32 saves to extend his career-best point streak to 10-0-2 and his win his career-best eighth in a row.
Dubnyk hasn’t lost in regulation since Nov. 19; the Wild hasn’t lost in regulation since Nov. 29. The Canadiens fell to 15-3-2 at home and 17-3-2 when scoring first.
Dubnyk entered with an NHL-best 1.55 goals-against average, .948 save percentage and five shutouts. Price entered third with a .936 save percentage and 1.87 goals-against average.
Dubnyk admires the decorated Price, who has backstopped Canada to gold medals at an Olympics and World Cup and has a Jennings, Vezina and Hart in his trophy case.
“It was a big buildup,” said Dubnyk, who chatted with Price at center ice while stretching during warmup. “I said, ‘I’ve been talking about you the last week and a half. He said, ‘Same here.’ You try to drown it out as much as you can and approach it like another game.”
“There was, I wouldn’t say nerves is the right word, but a little more excitement with all that hype.”