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Hockey Day MN 2015

Dubnyk provides needed relief

Minnesota netminder backstops Wild’s 3-1 win against Arizona

The newest member of the Wild, goaltender Devan Dubnyk, has helped Minnesota turn things around, earning two wins in his first two games. (MHM Photo / Jeff Wegge)

Minnesota netminder backstops Wild’s 3-1 win against Arizona

ST. PAUL — The Wild’s goaltending angst has been alleviated, at least for the moment, by the large frame of Devan Dubnbyk.

Dubnyk, a 6-foot-6 journeyman intent on resurrecting a career that last spring appeared in jeopardy, posted his second consecutive win as the Wild defeated the Arizona Coyotes 3-1 in the finale of Hockey Day Minnesota in front of 19,111 Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild, intent on resurrecting a season that several days ago appeared headed for the trash bin, got their 20th victory in their 44th game and demonstrated that things have changed.

The Coyotes, outshot 28-15 through two periods, pushed back hard over the final 20 minutes, outshooting the home team 11-5, but Zach Parise’s empty-net goal in the last minute clinched Minnesota’s win.

Asked if the Wild would have won this game in the midst of their recent trudge through 12 losses in 14 games, coach Mike Yeo was able to smile.

“We don’t, for sure,” he said. “That’s a good sign.”

Back then, no one seemed to have an answer for what ailed this team.

Finally, general manager Chuck Fletcher sent a third-round 2015 draft pick to the Coyotes for Dubnyk, a 28-year-old from Regina, Saskatchewan, who found himself playing in the American Hockey League at the end of last season.

Dubnyk was untested in a 7-0 victory over the Sabres in Buffalo Thursday night, and for much of the first two periods Saturday he was well protected and in control as the Wild led 2-1 on goals by Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle.

“Our first half of the game was fantastic,” Yeo said.

The second half?

Not so much.

But Dubnyk gobbled up loose pucks or guided them to his defenders with ease, a performance that was rewarded by a huge ovation from the overflow crowd after the final horn.

“It was a special moment for me that I won’t forget any time soon,” he said.

His play has snuffed out a stretch of ineffective Wild goaltending and it has been noticed.

Coyle, for example, said the guys are able to relax a bit because “we know we’ve got him behind us.”

“The two games he’s played,” Yeo said, “have instilled confidence in everybody. He plays with a lot of composure back there.”

Yeo said the subtle plays made by Dubnyk buy time for Minnesota’s defenders when there’s a flurry in the Wild zone.

“He’s playing great,” Wild defenseman Marco Scandella said. “He makes the first save; he’s a big guy with a big presence, and he moves the puck well for us, too. He’s been huge for us.”

Dubnyk, who is staying at the same St. Paul hotel that was housing his ex-teammates Saturday, used his experience of playing for Arizona against his former Edmonton team earlier this season to comfort him as he faced the Coyotes. He tried to ignore the uniform he wore only last week.

“Just concentrate on the game,” he explained.

Having played 19 games for Arizona this season, Dubnyk was unsurprised by the Coyotes’ third-period push. “But it’s how you handle those pushes,” he said, “and we did an incredible job.”

Dubnyk — he recorded an assist on Zucker’s goal — referred to Minnesota’s play since he joined the team as “120 minutes of pretty impressive hockey.”

Compared to the team’s play before his arrival, it was. Coyle got things started with a first-period goal, and Zucker outraced the Arizona defense to create a breakaway goal in the second.

Minnesota won for the sixth consecutive year on Hockey Day Minnesota and held on through some tense final moments to send its fans home content.

“A really good Hockey Day,” Yeo said, noting that this victory turned out to be not only a growing experience for the Wild, but a pleasurable one.

“It’s easier to learn lessons in wins than in losses,” he said, “and we need to learn a couple tonight for sure.”

BB covered sports for the Minneapolis Tribune for 13 years and for the St. Paul Pioneer Press for 20 years following stints at the International Falls Daily Journal and the Duluth News-Tribune. He was on the Wild beat as well as Gophers men's and women's hockey at the Pioneer Press. He lives in Minneapolis. Follow Bruce on Twitter @RealBBrothers

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