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Wild hopes Dubnyk feeling like his old self

Goaltender will carry back-to-back shutouts into rematch Tuesday against Flyers

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

ST. PAUL -- Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk sat in his locker, frustrated and dejected. 

It was six days ago in Toronto, after the Wild dropped a 4-2 game at the Air Canada Centre. Minnesota had outshot the Maple Leafs 37-19 and dominated large stretches of the game, but was not rewarded with the result it wanted.

Among the goals allowed was a fluke, off the end wall and off his own skate and into the goal, as well as a perfect redirection by his own defenseman.

One could tell Dubnyk was near the end of his rope.

"It's tough. I'm not going to lie. After each game you tell yourself it's bound to stop and it keeps going," Dubnyk said after the game. "There's nothing you can do about it. Just try to keep playing my game. It's getting old."

Three days in the NHL is an eternity, however, and after posting back-to-back shutouts against Montreal and Philadelphia, Dubnyk sat in his locker stall and laughed. He told assembled media that he reminded his buddy, Wild backup goaltender Alex Stalock, that it's amazing how quickly someone can go from a bad goaltender to a good one.

"I don't know if you picked up the sarcasm in the comment, but I was trying to lay it on there real thick," Dubnyk said Monday. "I was sort of joking about the bad goalie thing. But that's why you have to stick with what you're doing and you can't get too excited when things are going well and you can't beat yourself up too much when things aren't going well. 

"You have to believe in what you're doing and continue to do it and believe that the work and the approach and preparation will pay off and get you back on track."

The Wild begins another stretch of home games Tuesday in a rematch with the Flyers, the first in a span of four-of-six games through Black Friday where Minnesota will be playing on home ice.

The challenge for Dubnyk will now be to take that magic he found on the road and bring it home, where the Wild has a 3-3-1 record through the first month and change of the regular season.

If the eye test is any indication, Dubnyk followed up one his best games of the season in Montreal -- a 41-save shutout -- with an even better effort in Philadelphia, a game where he stopped 32 saves, including several grade-A chances.

"The last two games he's been very good," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "We just keep our fingers crossed that he gets on that run he got on last year or the year before. He's proven that when he's on top of his game, he's one of the best goalies in the world."

As good as Dubnyk was in the final two games of the road trip, he was quick to point out the strength of the defensive effort in front of him. Despite the high volume of shots in Montreal, the Canadiens were able to generate few real quality scoring chances, a trend that actually began the night before in Toronto.

The Flyers were able to create better chances, but the guys in front of him were more than willing to lay down and sacrifice their bodies to block them. Ryan Suter had several in the game, and Jared Spurgeon and Eric Staal both made critical blocks in the final minute of regulation to preserve the goose egg.

"You don't get shutouts by not getting some real big plays from guys like that," Dubnyk said. "You can go down the list, probably every guy had a big play defensively. When everybody is pitching in like that, it's fun. You see guys getting up and smiling because they know it might hurt a little bit, but it's a huge play for us as a group and it's a big part of why we won."

First-time First Star

For the first time in his career, Wild forward Jason Zucker was named an NHL Star of the Week. And instead of just dipping his toe in as the second or third star, Zucker went straight to the top, beating out Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov and Washington's Braden Holtby for top honors.

Video: Zucker named NHL's First Star of the Week

Zucker scored six goals and had an assist on the Wild's four-game road trip to the East Coast, accounting for each of Minnesota's past six goals, a franchise record. His streak is one shy of the NHL record of seven, which has been done just twice in the 100-year history of the League.

"Sometimes they just bounce the way [you want] them to," Zucker said.

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