ST. LOUIS – Devan Dubnyk’s eyes opened Thursday morning, and the Wild goaltender immediately realized he didn’t have a bad dream.
With a chance to take command of its first-round series with the St. Louis Blues, the Wild actually did suffer its worst loss in playoff history and Dubnyk his worst loss in a Wild uniform when the Blues knotted the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinals 2-2 with a 6-1 drubbing Wednesday night.
Dubnyk, so critical to the Wild if it has any chance of rebounding in this series, did his best to gain some “perspective on life.”
“You realize it’s a beautiful day in Minnesota and the sun came up this morning and that’s going to happen regardless of what happens on the ice,” Dubnyk said Thursday before boarding an hourlong flight to St. Louis for Friday night’s pivotal Game 5. “Whatever you need to do, if you spend some time with the family, play around with the little guy … you reset and get back at it.
“We all know we’re a great hockey team and that was one hockey game.”
This is the third consecutive playoff round in which the Wild has been tied 2-2. The Wild lost Game 5 on the road twice last postseason (it won Games 6 and 7 in the first round to beat Colorado) and has lost five consecutive Game 5s since 2003.
The Wild vows to forget Wednesday’s nightmare and redeem itself.
“You just move on. To sit around and think about a missed opportunity is silly,” coach Mike Yeo said. “A best-of-seven series, a playoff series against a team like this, it can’t be the end of the world when you lose a hockey game.”
The Blues didn’t make a ton of adjustments other than scrambling their lines and doing a better job stretching the Wild out in the neutral zone.
But the Wild believes that its shortcomings Wednesday were largely self-induced. Players weren’t tight with their defensive-zone coverage, didn’t come close to contesting shots well enough, were poor exiting their zone, made the first play but often not the second and strangely kept falling all over the ice.
Offensively, the Wild looked disjointed. It has scored nine goals in the series, three of which were empty-netters. Blues goalie Jake Allen ranks third in the NHL playoffs with a 1.51 goals-against average, giving up six goals in four games. Mikko Koivu, Chris Stewart and Thomas Vanek are three top Wild forwards who have yet to score.
“We were really off,” Yeo said of Wednesday’s display. “We were in between on everything and very reactive. … We weren’t on top of things, and they smelled that, and they jumped all over us. We just have to make sure we respond with a much better effort and a much better performance.”
‘One bad game’
With the Wild, Dubnyk went 27-9-2 in the regular season with a 1.78 goals-against average, .936 save percentage and five shutouts. He was 15-2-1 on the road with a 1.53 goals-against average and .949 save percentage.
So the Wild and its fans have yet to see how Dubnyk responds to bad losses and poor performances. He was pulled late in the second period after allowing six goals on 17 shots.
“It’s one game,” said defenseman Ryan Suter, who has no points in the series. “We were all bad. … We have confidence in him.”
Dubnyk, the master of simplifying things, played a lot of pressure-packed games in the second half and passed with flying colors. But this is his first Stanley Cup playoff experience, so he’s also trying to keep perspective about what a 6-1 loss really means.
“One bad hockey game. We’re in the same situation we would be in if we lost 1-0 in triple overtime,” he said. “Hey, it’s disappointing to do that in front of your home fans. None of us are … smiling and happy about it. We had a good opportunity to go up 3-1 in the series and we weren’t able to do that at home.
“But that’s the nice thing about the playoffs. We’ve got a chance to go back right now, and really the score makes no difference going into St. Louis. We know what we’re capable of. We didn’t do that [Wednesday] night, and that’s fine. We’ll bounce back. I’ve got no doubts about that.”
Dubnyk said there was “zero panic” among the group, and part of the Wild’s confidence stems from grabbing a franchise-record 50 points on the road this season and beating the Blues in St. Louis to open the series.
The team knows it will have to win at least once in St. Louis to win this series now.
“The fact that we played our worst game in like two months gives us confidence, too,” said Suter, meaning it was so atypical of the Wild in the Dubnyk era. “Hopefully, it was just a little bump in the road here and we can get it back.”
After the Wild shut St. Louis out in Monday night’s Game 3, the Blues were answering the same questions and being doubted just the way the Wild was Thursday.
“I was talking to someone this morning and he was saying it was almost like we pretty much switched teams,” Suter said. “That’s what happens in a seven-game series. Now we have to get that back, get the momentum back.”