Dubnyk makes 25 saves against former team in Wild win over Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Forgive Devan Dubnyk if he was feeling a bit of confusion Saturday night.
The Minnesota Wild’s new goaltender was set to make his first home start for his new team, but he’s living out of a hotel room. In the same hotel was his former team, the Arizona Coyotes, and the players he’d be facing later that night.
In some ways, Dubnyk was thankful the experience wasn’t a new one this year. With Arizona earlier this year, he faced another former team, Edmonton.
“It was weird,” Dubnyk said. “It was more weird being around the hotel and they’re all around there, and walking over to the rink and stuff. That was a little more weird. I had the opportunity to play against Edmonton for the first time again this year, so I just try to draw off that experience and different things I tried to do to make the picture smaller, and not worry too much about the situation and just concentrate on the game.”
Minnesota has appreciated Dubnyk’s ability to not make the situation too big. Acquired from Arizona in a trade Wednesday, Dubnyk has helped settle the Wild’s goaltending spot and led his new team to back-to-back wins for the first time since mid-November.
One game after posting an 18-save shutout in his Minnesota debut, Dubnyk made 25 saves in the Wild’s 3-1 win against the Coyotes on Saturday. He even added an assist against his former team.
“All the guys, that’s 120 minutes of some pretty impressive hockey in front of me,” Dubnyk said. “When you see guys working and supporting each other for the entire game like we do, like we have the last two games, it drives you to really bear down and want to make those stops for them. Just try to continue feeding off each other going forward.”
Minnesota was tied for the league’s lowest save percentage earlier this week, necessitating the move to acquire the big, 6-foot-6 netminder from Arizona. In his first season with the Coyotes, Dubnyk was backing up Mike Smith — who had 30 saves Saturday — but had the team’s best save percentage and goals-against average, while finishing with a winning record.
The Wild were without young goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who had struggled before being placed on injured reserve. Veteran Niklas Backstrom had a 3.04 goals-against average and .887 save percentage in his sporadic time.
Dubnyk didn’t allow a goal in his first 93 minutes, 26 seconds with Minnesota and has stopped 43 of the 44 shots he’s faced and won both games.
“He’s made some huge saves,” said Wild forward Jason Zucker, who scored his team-leading 16th goal Saturday. “There were definitely a few that we thought were going to go in and somehow he kept them out. So, it’s always nice. He’s been playing great.”
Even when Arizona pressured in the third period, Dubnyk stood up and stopped all 11 shots he faced as Minnesota was outshot 11-5 in the final period.
Wild head coach Mike Yeo even conceded his team likely wouldn’t have won Saturday’s game with the circumstances being the same a week or two previously.
“The two games that he’s played, it instills confidence in you, the way that he plays with a lot of composure back there,” Yeo said. “Obviously, some big saves by him early in the game to give us the chance to grab the lead, and certainly some very big saves to keep the lead.”
The only goal Dubnyk allowed was on the power play to Arizona forward Antoine Vermette, who scored off a rebound that had deflected off of the goalpost.
During a stop in play, Vermette skated over to the benches with Dubnyk, his former teammate. The two talked and then Vermette tapped Dubnyk on the pads.
“He wanted me to give him a couple more,” Dubnyk said after the game. “I said, ‘Sorry, I can’t, maybe another time. Not right now.'”
Dubnyk played his first game a day later for the Wild, still wearing his Coyotes mask and pads.
Saturday he led Minnesota onto the ice with a new Wild-themed wrap on his mask and a dash of green on his pads. Dubnyk high-fived fans on his way out of the tunnel for the start of the game and then got a big cheer from the Xcel Energy Center crowd when he was named the second star of the game.
“It feels awesome,” Dubnyk said. “Those are things that, after the game is over, I really try to enjoy. That was a special moment for me that I won’t forget anytime soon. I’ve been here for a lot of games and it’s always a tough place to play, so it’s very exciting for me to be on the right side of it.”
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