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Dubnyk revels in Wild-record third All-Star appearance

Headliner of Minnesota contingent in San Jose mixes festivity with thrilling saves

by Phil Ervin /

Devan Dubnyk didn't walk away $100K richer Saturday.

But after taking part in his third NHL All-Star Game in five seasons with the Wild, the goaltender knows this is much more a celebration than a competition.

While a share of the $1 million prize purse doled out to the winning team would've been nice, this was about walking the red carpet and interacting with fans. Mingling with fellow goaltenders and upper-echelon athletes and celebrities. Soaking up the Silicon Valley sun. Designing a new mask to match the sleek black-and-white threads players wore with their own team crests on the front. Remembering that a half-decade ago, Dubnyk was bouncing from team to team, unsure of his NHL future.

Video: Devan Dubnyk All-Star postgame

And sharing yet another uncommon experience with his sons Nate, 5, and Parker, 3, who got to see Nordy and other NHL characters square off in the league's Mascot Showdown and watched in awe as the Stanford marching band performed at the Sharks' SAP Center.

"The whole point is being able to see and spend time with your family," said Dubnyk, whose Central Division team fell 10-5 to the Metropolitan Division in the 2019 All-Star Game finale at San Jose's SAP Center.

The first player in franchise history to play in three All-Star Games has come to appreciate what a weekend with the league's best means. For Dubnyk, personally, it's overcoming early inconsistencies to become a staple in Minnesota's current six-year playoff streak, starting when the Wild traded for him in January 2015. 

A year later, he made his first All-Star Roster, representing the Central Division in Nashville. The next season came with a trip to Los Angeles and the 2017 All-Star Game.

That first year, Dubnyk admits, he was anxious. He's learned to calm down and just absorb the moment.

"I've done relaxed and I've done nervous and I let in the same amount of goals both times," Dubnyk said Friday night after the 2019 All-Star Skills competition. "I'm just gonna go have fun and enjoy the time and we'll see what happens."

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What happened Saturday offered the entire hockey world a glimpse into why Dubnyk leads the NHL in games played and shutouts, ranks second in wins and is tied for second in both goals against and save percentage since coming to Minnesota.

After Nashville's Pekka Rinne backstopped the Central to a 7-1 lead in the first half of Saturday's first contest, a series of point-blank saves by Dubnyk ensured the margin stayed lopsided. After robbing hometown hero Joe Pavelski, Dubnyk flashed the leather to keep two-time reigning Art Ross Trophy winner Connor McDavid from finishing a breakaway all alone.

Dubnyk shared he'd studied the two-time reigning Art Ross Trophy winner's shootout tendencies and guessed he'd go high glove side.

Video: CEN@PAC: Dubnyk flashes the leather for terrific stop

"I told him it was probably bad karma," Dubnyk said. "We play them later in the year, so I'm sure he'll find a way to bite me to throw it in his face like that. He was laughing."

Then, with about 3 1/2 minutes to go, Dubnyk disappointed all the Sharks fans in the building again by poke checking the puck away from Pavelski then sprawling, snow-angel style, to get his glove on Brent Burns' attempt at a redirect.

Adjusting from his usual stolid approach to the position in favor of taking risks and stacking the pads more often -- as is required in extended 3-on-3 play with so much open ice and skill on display -- Dubnyk stopped 15 of 18 shots in the opener to help the Central to a 10-4 victory.

It was the division's first All-Star win since the NHL moved to the current 3-on-3 format starting in 2016.

"It's a little bit easier to go out there when you're winning 10-1," Dubnyk said with a laugh. "You can try some new things."

Tweet from @mnwild: ������👼#NHLAllStar

Things didn't go so well against the Metropolitan. Dubnyk stopped six of 11 shots as the eventual Sidney Crosby-led champs led 5-0 after a half. Rinne took over in the second frame, but Patrick Kane, Blake Wheeler and company were unable to erase the deficit.

"It was a nice feeling coming in after a win," Dubnyk said. "I wasn't sure how I was going to feel playing for money at the end, but it was still survival mode. ... We were trying to mount a comeback there at the end, which would've been nice, but it was a good experience."

Dubnyk wasn't the only Wild player to invade the Bay Area.

Video: J.T. Brown gamer house tour

Starting Thursday, fourth-line winger and avid gamer J.T. Brown joined fellow esports enthusiasts in the NHL's "House of Chel." Brown and his companions spent three days playing video games and participating in a series of events and challenges, including the rare opportunity to stand six feet away from Mikko Rantanen and let the Avalanche forward fire a cupcake out of a t-shirt cannon into Brown's midsection.

Many of the festivities and shenanigans were live streamed on the NHL's Twitch channel.

"In California, when we were just driving around, you get to see [a house like this], but never in person" Brown told Wild TV during an exclusive tour of the home, owned by Silicon Valley icon Scott McNealy and featuring an ice rink, golf course, movie theater, sports court, pizza room, massage room, game room and turf field. "To get inside and see how much detail goes into a place like this, it's pretty special."

In related news, the Wild on Friday announced its first ever e-sports tournament. Registration for the 2019 Wild Gaming Tournament presented by Mall of America is now open for online play Feb. 2-3, with live finals at the mall Monday, Feb. 18.

Tweet from @JTBrown23: About to go live for the last stream at the house of chel! Come tune in #NHLGWC

The weekend also featured Minnesota Whitecaps star and two-time Olympian Kendall Coyne Schofield, who became the first woman to compete in NHL All-Star Skills event. After the Avalanche's Nathan MacKinnon missed All-Star competition with a bruised foot, Coyne Schofield took his place in the Fastest Skater competition and clocked a time of 14.346 seconds -- less than a second behind McDavid, the event's winner for a third year in a row.

Dubnyk, for his part, didn't steal quite so many headlines. His seven consecutive shootout saves saw him finish third in the Save Streak contest.

But so did his sons. Nate was at both of his father's previous All-Star appearances, but pops was hopeful his oldest of three boys will recall this trip the most.

"He'll definitely remember being out here," Dubnyk said. "We'll see how good Parker's memory is; maybe he'll remember, too."

Tweet from @mnwild: Not much beats spending this moment with the kiddos. #NHLAllStar #mnwild

Video: CEN@PAC: Dubnyk turns aside Pavelski's breakaway bid

Video: Devan Dubnyk post skills competition

Video: Devan Dubnyk: All-Star media day

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