Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has cemented his status as team MVP through the first three weeks of the season with his play between the pipes, turning aside nearly 95 percent of the shots he’s faced.
But now Dubnyk is starting to also make a difference on offense.
Aside from posting 23 saves at one end, Dubnyk helped set up a goal at the other — earning an assist on the eventual clincher in a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night in front of 18,778 at Xcel Energy Center. The victory extended the team’s winning streak to a season-high four games.
It was the second consecutive game in which a Wild netminder not only chipped in an assist but a meaningful one. Backup Alex Stalock had the secondary helper on the overtime tally in the 5-4 decision over the Lightning on Saturday.
“I think [Dubnyk] was just jealous that Stalock got an assist last game, so he had to get into the play,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Center Charlie Coyle once again facilitated the goalie’s touch on the puck up ice, this time feeding it to defenseman Jonas Brodin — who wired in a shot 14 minutes, 22 seconds into the second period from just inside the left faceoff circle.
“Something about when the goalie puts it on my stick, I know it’s going to be a goal at the end of it,” Coyle said. “So I try to make the right play. It’s good to get them on the score sheet. It makes them feel good, I bet. Just get everyone involved.”
That put the Wild up 2-0, as the fourth line opened the scoring in the first period during 4-on-4 action — the second consecutive game the line contributed a goal.
Wild winger Marcus Foligno threw the puck toward the front of the net from the left side, and the puck bounced off center Eric Fehr and past Kings goalie Jack Campbell while Fehr was hauled down by defenseman Jake Muzzin.
The sequence was reviewed before it was deemed a good goal at 15:13 — Fehr’s first with the Wild.
“I saw where it hit the stick,” Fehr said, “and luckily it went in before the net went off.”
The goal was part of a better finish to the period for the Wild (5-2-2), as the team predictably seemed to take some time to get up to speed after a four-day lull in the schedule.
That reality, combined with Los Angeles’ five-game losing streak, could have been a dangerous combination for the Wild, but the group fended off the Kings’ desperation — which did spark one goal.
Just 3:39 into the third, winger Kyle Clifford buried a Nick Seeler turnover behind Dubnyk.
The Kings had three consecutive power plays later in the period after the Wild went 0-for-4 with the man advantage, but Los Angeles couldn’t convert and also finished 0-for-4.
“We were getting 200-foot clears all the time,” said Dubnyk, whose assist was the seventh of his career and sixth with the Wild to become the franchise leader — surpassing Nicklas Backstrom’s previous record of five. “That’s a huge part of the penalty kill.”
Empty-net goals from winger Mikael Granlund at 19:15 and captain Mikko Koivu at 19:36 provided insurance, and Granlund’s goal came shorthanded. Defenseman Ryan Suter notched his second assist of the night on the play during his 1,000th NHL game. Campbell had 22 stops for the Kings.
“I liked our consistency up until the last 10 minutes of that game when it got a little bit away from us with penalties,” Foligno said. “But it was a good effort.”