PHILADELPHIA — Filip Gustavsson skated off the ice after the first period and posed a question to Wild goaltending coach Frederic Chabot.
Did he find Gustavsson's glove?
"I thought I played with two blockers out there," Gustavsson said.
Usually a magnet for shots, Gustavsson was more like Teflon early on Tuesday night against the Devils. At one stoppage, he spiked the puck.
"Some games just have those," the first-year Wild netminder said. "It's two centimeters from hitting the pocket, and then it's going to be a super-cute save. Some nights it just bounces off you."
Either way, Gustavsson was repelling pressure from New Jersey, piling up enough stops to help the Wild outlast the Devils 2-1 in overtime and solidifying another clutch performance during his first playoff chase as an NHLer.
"He's a gamer, for sure," said Matt Boldy, who christened Gustavsson's effort a win with his buzzer-beater breakaway. "Just his mindset going into games, he seems loose and excited to play games — not nervous about them. I think that plays a big role, at least for me as a player — I'm sure it's the same as a goalie — is being able to play loose and have fun.
"He's laughing out there, cracking jokes and stuff like that, so I think that goes a long way with how well he's been playing."
Gustavsson finished with a career-high 47 saves, a far cry from the 35 shots he dubbed a "perfect" workload.
He denied what could have been a game's worth of shots in the third period alone, fending off 20. The only one that eluded him was a wraparound from 30-goal scorer Timo Meier. Then in overtime, Gustavsson stymied Jack Hughes five times to go 10-for-10 vs. New Jersey's top point-getter.
"It was some mind games there," he said.
This improved Gustavsson to 6-1-3 over his past 10 starts, a span in which he owns a 1.73 goals-against average and .944 save percentage while posting a pair of shutouts.
That lone regulation loss came to Boston in Gustavsson's previous appearance last Saturday, and he also dropped his start before that in overtime at Arizona on March 12. Not only has going winless in consecutive games become rare since Gustavsson turned the page on a 1-3-1 start to the season, but the nine goals he surrendered in those two outings were also atypical: In 22 of his 31 starts, Gustavsson has limited the opposition to two or less.
"I don't think I played that bad the previous game," Gustavsson said. "The Arizona one looks bad because they don't shoot too much. But the goals were pretty good goals, and Boston is a good team. I thought I played good and just tried to stay with it, and I knew the results would come."
Gustavsson is 18-9-5, his 2.04 goals-against average and .932 save percentage ranking second in the league behind only Linus Ullmark from the Bruins, the frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy.
From Nov. 19 on, Gustavsson actually leads the league in goals-against average (1.79) and save percentage (.939) for goalies who've played at least 10 games. Gustavsson's also had a knack for backstopping the Wild to their statement wins; aside from outdueling New Jersey twice now, Gustavsson was in net for victories against other contenders like Carolina and Tampa Bay and the Wild's Central Division rival Dallas.
What makes this résumé even more impressive is that this is the first time Gustavsson's been in a Stanley Cup Playoffs race. Before the Wild acquired him in an offseason trade with Ottawa for Cam Talbot, the 24-year-old was shuffling between the NHL and minors with the rebuilding Senators.
Gustavsson isn't overwhelmed by the opportunity.
"It's just so much fun to win," he said. "Anyone that likes losing shouldn't be doing sports. It's just so much more fun to win, and winning with this group of guys and all the staff and coaches, it's so much fun going around this country and Canada and play hockey and win games."