The Lightning had chance after chance against Dubnyk.
Time after time, 31 to be precise, they were turned away.
Jared Spurgeon’s goal 26 seconds into the second period would be the only goal Minnesota needed in a 1-0 shutout victory over the Bolts, who fall to 7-7-2 in defeat.
The Lightning have a couple days off before beginning a three-game home stand Tuesday against Buffalo and play six of their next seven at Amalie Arena, a welcome homecoming after starting the season with 11 of their first 16 on the road.
What were the highlights (and lowlights) from the trip to the State of Hockey?
Takeaways from a fourth-straight loss inside the Xcel Energy Center ahead.
- The first, second and third star from Saturday night was Dubnyk, who just refused to be beaten by anything the Lightning threw his way.
A perfect example was the save he made on Anton Stralman in the first period. Dubnyk got caught out of his goal as Alex Killorn wheeled behind the net. Killorn centered the puck for Stralman, who had a brief look at a net with no goalie, but by the time he got his shot off, Dubnyk scrambled to get in the way and take away a major scoring chance for the Lightning.
The fans inside Xcel Energy Center yelled “DUUUUUUUUUUUUUBBBBB” after the miraculous recovery.
In truth, they could have chanted his name all night.
“He made some unbelievable saves,” Stralman said.
Dubnyk recorded his second shutout of the season against the Lightning. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has scored just three goals in the last five starts for Ben Bishop.
“It just seems like every single night, we’re playing a Vezina winner,” Cooper said. “And our guy’s playing like one too. It’s tough. I feel bad for the guys.”
- The Xcel Energy Center is a beautiful arena and one of the nicest facilities in the NHL.
Everything inside gives the impression of a rustic log cabin or a winter ski lodge. Wood trim can be found throughout, from the facing on concession stands to the door leading into the Wild locker room and even the paneling surrounding the giant scoreboard that gives Lightning Vision a run for its money in terms of size.
Evergreen trees line the front of the arena, much like the palm trees that surround Amalie Arena.
The dark green seats in the bowl give a warm, inviting feel.
Arenas around the NHL typically look similar from rink to rink, but Xcel is one of the more unique buildings in the league.
- Another common theme throughout Xcel:
No, not the legume
The comic strip featuring Snoopy, Woodstock and Charlie Brown
Peanuts creator Charles Schultz was born in Minneapolis and grew up in Saint Paul, where Xcel Energy Center is located. Four-foot statues of the Peanuts gang wearing Minnesota Wild gear adorn the concourses. Similar bronze statues (without the hockey apparel) can be found throughout the city of Saint Paul.
My favorite? The one near our team hotel with Charlie Brown sitting on the ground underneath a tree and Snoopy lying on his lap.
- Ondrej Palat got caught in a pileup in front of Bishop with just over seven minutes gone in the second period and had to exit the game.
Minnesota’s Nino Niederreiter fell backwards onto the ice, and Palat’s left leg was underneath when all of Niederreiter’s weight came down on top of it.
Palat rolled over in immediate pain and remained on the ice for a few seconds as the puck went down the other end into the Bolts offensive zone. He got up and skated to the Lightning bench under his own power but gingerly and headed straight for the locker room.
Before the start of the third period, the team announced Palat had sustained a lower-body injury and wouldn’t return.
The extent of the injury is unknown.
“The one thing is, Palat is the ultimate gamer, so you see somebody like him go off the way he did, it’s never encouraging,” Cooper said. “Hopefully, he’s going to be OK because, you don’t want to lose anybody, but he’s a big part of our team.”
- Following the game, Cooper was asked if any of his teams have gone through a scoring drought for their starting goaltender like the one the Bolts are mired in currently
“I’ve been a part of some high-scoring teams over the years, and I don’t know if I’ve seen a team as dry as this one, I’ll be honest,” he said.
Later during the interview, Cooper remembered a situation that could compare.
“Mike Smith came down when I was in Syracuse and played five games for us, and I think we had this type of stretch,” he said. “We gave up like two goals in five games, and I think he got one win. It was awful. If I’m thinking of the two worst stretches I’ve had is the one time when Smitty came down and played and I felt awful for him. And, now, you know Ben. It’s unfortunate.”
- Bishop seemed undeterred by the lack of goal support when asked in the locker room if he was growing frustrated with each mounting loss. The veteran goalie has remained calm under trying circumstances and continued to do so Saturday.
“These guys have scored a lot of goals for me over the years,” he said. “It’s just one of those things where the puck can’t seem to go in right now.”
Hopefully for his sake and the Lightning’s, that soon changes.