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Dubnyk makes 31 saves, Wild shut out Lightning

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk looked like his old self against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday.

Dubnyk stopped all 31 shots he faced, leading the Wild to a 1-0 win.

After a mid-January trade brought him to Minnesota from the Arizona Coyotes, Dubnyk finished went 27-9-2 with a 1.78 goals-against average and a save percentage of .936, leading the Wild into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Wild rewarded Dubnyk during the summer with a six-year contract, but he hasn't had the same success in the first month of this season. Prior to shutting out the Lightning, Dubnyk's save percentage was 40 points lower and his goals-against average almost a full goal higher than his numbers with Minnesota last season.

But Saturday was a different story; he made defenseman Jared Spurgeon's goal early in the second period stand up.

"It's nice to be able to pay these guys back," Dubnyk said. "They've scored four or five goals for me in some wins this year. They worked real hard for me tonight and gave me a chance."

Dubnyk looked aggressive from the start and was attacking pucks early, making 13 saves in the first period.

"I felt good on my blades and I felt pretty patient," Dubnyk said. "That's the most important part of my game."

Minnesota (8-3-2) was playing without forward Zach Parise, who sprained his right MCL against the Nashville Predators on Thursday. Without one of their top scorers, the Wild needed Dubnyk at his best, and that's what they got.

"We talked this morning about guys stepping up. They didn't have to be forwards," coach Mike Yeo said. "That was definitely [Dubnyk's] best game of the season."

It was another night of frustration for Tampa Bay. The Lightning, the NHL's highest-scoring team last season, have lost six of their past eight games, scoring a total of three goals in the six losses. They've been shut out three times during that span.

"The frustration is not out of a lack of scoring chances, a lack of effort, a lack of all the things you look for. The frustration is out of, I'm confused," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We're going through these games and we're considerably outchancing teams, I thought we outchanced them tonight. And they get the one [goal] and for whatever reason, we can't find a way to get one.

"The guys are doing all the right things, they're doing everything you ask of them. They're not going in. We sit here and say 'Eventually, it's going to end.' But it's going on a lot longer than I anticipated."

Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop made 24 saves. His teammates have scored three goals in his past five starts.

"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," Cooper said. "It feels like there is a pane of glass behind the goalie."

Tampa Bay (7-7-2) had plenty of chances early, including a rocket cross-ice one-timer by Steven Stamkos during a first-period power play. Seconds later, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat were stuffed from in tight.

Spurgeon scored 26 seconds into the second period. His shot from the right point made it through traffic and over Bishop's right pad, giving Dubnyk all the support he would need.

Tampa Bay's Alex Killorn and Ryan Callahan had golden chances turned away by Dubnyk midway through the second, and Nikita Kucherov was stopped twice later in the period during a power play.

"I thought we played a pretty good game tonight. I thought we deserved a better fate," Callahan said. "Dubnyk came up with some pretty big saves."

The Lightning got Bishop to the bench with 53 seconds to play and had four shots on goal with the extra attacker, including great chances by Stamkos and defenseman Victor Hedman in the final seconds. But they could not get the puck past Dubnyk.

"Everybody chipped in. It takes five guys to shut down top players," Wild defenseman Ryan Suter said. "He showed what he was capable of last year, and tonight he definitely showed it."

Palat left the game early in the second period with an apparent lower-body injury. Wild forward Nino Niederreiter landed on his ankle and foot in front of the crease. Palat skated slowly to the bench, left the bench and did not return. He will be reevaluated upon the club's return to Tampa.

"He's the ultimate gamer," Cooper said, "so when you see a guy like that go off the way he did, it's never encouraging."

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