ST. PAUL, Minn. — Devan Dubnyk had just controlled a 32-shot ambush by the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings and sat calmly at his dressing-room stall as if he had been relaxing for the previous two-plus hours.
Instead, Dubnyk finished his 35th consecutive start — the sixth time he’s started back-to-back games as a member of the Minnesota Wild. Dubnyk wasn’t trying to catch his breath following a 31-save performance in a 4-1 win against Los Angeles. His words steady and composed, Dubnyk reflected on an amazing run which has led Minnesota from the 12th spot in the Western Conference to fourth overall and third in the Central Division on Saturday night.
Two early goals provided the advantage and Dubnyk overcame the Kings’ efforts to continue their own streak. The Wild’s win pushed them ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks in the standings for at least one night.
The tall netminder acquired for a third-round draft pick from the Arizona Coyotes has gone 26-6-1 with a 1.70 goals-against average and .939 save percentage in his time in Minnesota. Dubnyk has allowed 57 total goals in 34 games.
"It’s crazy, for sure," Dubnyk said. "But it’s fun. I’ve kind of said along the way, I think it’s really important to relish this experience and soak it all in. It’s sometimes easy. You want to try to block it out, but I think it’s important. This is a pretty exciting time for us as a group and it’s important to take some time and really soak it in and enjoy the experience."
With four days off before Minnesota hosts the New York Rangers, Dubnyk will rest. The entire team will take Sunday off and have an optional skate on Monday.
Dubnyk, who has talked often about not getting caught up in the big moments of the season and individual games, doesn’t mind recalling the success he and the team have had since Jan. 15 when he was traded from Arizona to the Wild.
"We don’t usually get this much time to think about it," Dubnyk said. "It’s a good chance to think about it and relax and get ready for Thursday."
Dubnyk has won five straight starts, allowing eight goals. Saturday’s win finished a sweep of back-to-back home games against Calgary and Los Angeles. Since Dubnyk was pulled in an eventual shootout loss at Detroit, Dubnyk is 8-1-1 in back-to-back games.
Saturday, Dubnyk made several big saves as Minnesota was outshot 25-11 the final two periods.
"What can you say about the job that he did tonight? He was outstanding," head coach Mike Yeo said. "And that’s a team (where) they’re going to find a way to get their shots. We did a great job blocking shots but they still find a way to get their shots. And they’ve always got guys going to the net, so our D did a great job boxing out, but for him to control rebounds and to make that first save the way he did . . ."
Defenseman Jonas Brodin came to Dubnyk’s aid during a 5-on-3 penalty kill. After an initial shot bounced hard off Dubnyk’s pads, Brodin stuck out his stick to deflect a sure goal by Tyler Toffoli.
"It happens so fast," Dubnyk said. "He hammered it from in tight. It comes off my pads so hard, all I had a chance to do was look over and think it was going in the net, but Brods saved it for me."
Dubnyk saved Minnesota’s season, and he’s shown no signs of letting up.
While talking with reporters, Dubnky didn’t seem tired Saturday after another yet another start in another big game. He’s handling them all as they come.
"When the guys give such a consistent effort in front of me and I can go into every game just knowing how hard they’re going to work, and knowing exactly what my job is, and not ever question what the game is going to be like for me, it makes it a lot easier mentally to prepare for the game the same way and just go out there and play," Dubnyk said. "It’s been an absolute treat to get to go out there with these guys as many times as I have."