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Dubnyk, Wild edge Blackhawks, clinch playoff berth

by Brian Hedger /

CHICAGO -- Devan Dubnyk made 32 saves to help the Minnesota Wild clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 2-1 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Tuesday.

It's been a remarkable turnaround for the Wild (45-27-8), who came into Chicago on Jan. 11 losers of 13 of their previous 19 (6-8-5) and amid rumors coach Mike Yeo would be fired.

Minnesota lost to Chicago that night, then to the Nashville Predators two days later to extend its losing streak to four, but things changed when the Wild acquired Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes for a third-round pick at the 2015 NHL Draft on Jan. 14.

They've gone 27-8-3 since that point, with Dubnyk starting all 38 games to set a Wild record, and Minnesota will make its third straight postseason appearance.

"Everything was going wrong," Wild defenseman Ryan Suter said. "Everything was going in, bad bounces and all, and now he's there, and we have that confidence back. He's come in and made the timely save when he needs to, and he's done a really good job for us."

That was true again Tuesday.

Chicago (48-26-6), which has lost two in a row, outshot Minnesota 23-15 through the first two periods, but Dubnyk didn't let the puck into the net once. He and the Wild defense held the Blackhawks at bay until the third, when Minnesota forced more turnovers and outshot Chicago 15-10.

The Wild were rewarded with goals by forwards Mikael Granlund at 9:30 and Jason Zucker at 13:14, with Zucker scoring his 19th goal in his first game since sustaining a broken right clavicle Feb. 9 against the Vancouver Canucks.

Zucker's goal ended up the game-winner after Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell scored with 1:48 remaining with Corey Crawford on the bench in favor of an extra attacker.

"That was just a great pass by [Chris Stewart]," Zucker said of his goal. "I just wanted to come out and play a simple game. Overall, it wasn't one of my better games, but it was good to get back into it and get a few puck touches."

Minnesota has won 11 straight road games, one shy of the NHL record (2005-06 Detroit Red Wings), and ended a three-game losing streak (0-2-1).

The Wild are trying to stay low-key, but they're playing with a lot more swagger than they did in January.

"A humble swagger, if that's a word," said forward Zach Parise, who had the primary assist on Granlund's goal. "We just like the way we're playing. We haven't looked at the big picture. We were in a tough spot and we just had to win games. We couldn't look too far ahead and we did a good job of that. We maintained that for a long time, which is hard to do."

The Blackhawks finished 24-12-5 at United Center.

Crawford made 28 saves for Chicago, which is in third place in the Central Division, two points behind the Predators and one back of the St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks have two games remaining; they visit the Blues on Thursday and the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.

"We had a couple of opportunities to cash in and we just didn't capitalize on them," Bickell said. "A couple of mistakes led to goals in the back of the net, and we pushed it down there and it just wasn't there. We just need to bounce back in St. Louis and we can catch them again."

Chicago had the best chance to score midway through the second, when Bickell forced a turnover that created a 2-on-1 for Andrew Shaw and Patrick Sharp. After Marco Scandella got his stick on a cross-ice pass from Shaw to Sharp, the Blackhawks continued to apply pressure and got away two shots from close range.

Dubnyk turned away a backhand by Shaw with a pad save, which sent a rebound to Sharp for another shot that bounced off the left post and slid into the crease. Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon scooped the puck and ended the threat.

Minnesota controlled the third and nearly scored on the shift before Granland's goal midway through. Crawford made dazzling saves on back-to-back shots by Jason Pominville and Parise, but Granlund scored six seconds after the ensuing faceoff.

"We tried to make plays [in the third] and turned pucks over, and that led to plays in our own end," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "[The Wild have] gotten better the last three years. They've got some younger guys, they've got some depth, they've got some speed and skill throughout their lineup, and they check extremely well, and they can frustrate you. They'll make you pay if you try to take them on."

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