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Dubnyk Instilling Confidence, Giving Wild A Chance

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

As Devan Dubnyk inched up in his crease, watching Carolina Hurricanes forward Elias Lindholm with the puck and game on his stick laboring up the ice, Dubnyk wasn't quite sure how many seconds were left in overtime.

Seven seconds left; the puck gets chipped out of Carolina's end. Four seconds left; Lindholm catches up to the puck at Minnesota's blue line. Three seconds left; Lindholm spins by Mikko Koivu.

Less than a second left; Dubnyk sprawls onto his side with his blocker and stick, taking away the daylight between the puck, the goal, and a Wild overtime-loss.

"I didn't realize the clock was that low," Dubnyk said. "Mikko did a real nice job coming over at him, and he makes a nice move, but Mikko put some good pressure on him, and then it's up to me to stay with him there."

In those four seconds, Dubnyk did his part to keep the Wild in it. He's hoping these moments, born out of seconds, will help preserve Minnesota's season by weeks.

"Obviously this time of a year going into a shootout, you compete your best, and you get the extra point," Dubnyk said. "But going into a shootout right now, getting one point is not good enough for us."

Getting into the shootout is what the Wild did twice this weekend, and winning in those shootouts is also what Minnesota did, twice. Dubnyk stopped 60 of the 64 shots he faced against the Hurricanes and Chicago Blackhawks, and was beaten on one-of-six shootout attempts.

The Wild earned four points, and remained one behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card spot into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The performance from its goaltender came on the heels of the Wild losing 7-4 against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. Minnesota trailed 2-0 in that game before making it 2-1 on a Nino Niederreiter power-play goal 14:15 into the first period.

But the Devils would score three minutes after that, chasing Dubnyk from the game. After the loss, Dubnyk stood in front of a group of reporters and placed the blame squarely on his own shoulders.

"The third one is mine, and I'll take responsibility for that game getting to where it was. I know there's a lot of game after that, but it's tough when goals are going in — it makes it tougher to play in front of you," Dubnyk said. "I'll take responsibility tonight for that for sure, and we'll move on. We'll all be better next game.

"I have to hang onto that rebound, and control the game, so I'll need to be better at that the next game."

And that's what Dubnyk did. But for the Wild's starting goalie, it's not about feeling the need to do something extraordinary. His position more than any other is affected by the performance of his teammates.

Dubnyk is the Wild's last line of defense. When he's called upon, he needs to be ready. But how frequently that happens, and how difficult those calls can be are out of his control.

"You just want to play well," he said after the Wild defeated the Hurricanes on Saturday. "I've been through a lot of different situations, and as a goalie, it's a reactive position.

"You can't want to go out there and make 50 saves. If you only get 10 shots that’s all you can do. My job and my focus is to go out there and give these guys a good feeling, and a good chance to win every game."

It was the second time in nine days that Dubnyk had been pulled from a game after allowing three goals. Similarly, Dubnyk responded to a setback against the St. Louis Blues two nights later with 30 saves, including 14 in the third period, to lead the Wild to a 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.

"You can't approach it that, 'I have to go out there and win a game,'" he said. "I have to go out there and make big saves, and have these guys feel comfortable and win a game, and then see what happens from there."

In that sense, Dubnyk is the Wild's stabilizing force, both from a hockey and mental perspective.

He has four times been pulled this season short of finishing a game. (He was replaced in a fifth instance, but due to injury). And in the four games following those instances, Dubnyk is 3-1-0 with a .924 save-percentage.

Since interim Head Coach John Torchetti took over, Dubnyk has a .935 save-percentage at five-on-five, sixth in the NHL. He's 7-1-1 in his past 10 starts.

It's why in moments like that Lindholm breakaway, with his Wild teammates watching from the bench, there's a not-so-quiet confidence in Dubnyk.

"(I'm thinking) hopefully he makes the save," Charlie Coyle said, laughing. "It made it exciting, definitely. We have a lot of confidence in [Dubnyk] though to make that save, and he came up big there, so that was huge."

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