- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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Hours before he led the Wild to a 4-1 win with a 36-save performance against the St. Louis Blues in Game 5 of the Western Conference first-round Stanley Cup playoff series, he learned that he’s one of three finalists for the 2014-15 Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie -- along with the Montreal Canadiens' Carey Price and the Nashville Predators' Pekka Rinne.
“It was a real exciting day,” Dubnyk said. “Obviously, game day but talking with friends and family when you get the news is pretty exciting and little bit of time spent reflecting on the past year. It was a year ago today I was on the C-squad in Montreal, so it’s been a long road and I got a chance to talk to some important people in my life today that supported me through the whole run. It was nice to get that news today.”
Ever since he arrived in Minnesota via trade with the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 14, Dubnyk has been tremendous for the Wild and is one of the main reasons this team earned a postseason berth.
He posted a 27-9-2 record with a 1.78 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage, including five shutouts in 39 starts. From the time of his Wild debut until the end of the regular season, he led the NHL in wins and was tied for second in shutouts.
“A pretty good day,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said after Friday’s victory. “As far as good days go, that would be up there. Our whole group is happy for him. Whenever there’s an individual accomplishment, or individual recognition, it says an awful lot about the rest of the group.”
During the Wild’s horrible Game 4 loss, Dubnyk was pulled after St. Louis scored its sixth goal late in the second period. After that game, his demeanor was calm and his teammates had all the confidence he would respond in Game 5.
“He’s awesome. We knew he was going to respond,” said Wild forward Charlie Coyle, who scored Minnesota’s fourth goal of the game. “He’s responded well since he’s been here. After every loss, he comes right back at it, stays positive and always has that positive attitude, which is huge and it wears off on us. That makes us confident in him and we knew he was going to play well tonight.”
In the day between games, Dubnyk recalled a conversation he once had with former Coyotes teammate Shane Doan, who told the goaltender that when you’re down or have a bad game you need to remind yourself that’s not the player you are. Doan told him to remember the solid performances, the ones that helped you reach this point of your career because that’s the player you are.
Solid advice that Dubnyk didn’t forget, and he put it on display Friday.
The Blues came out flying and dominated the first 10 minutes of the game. St. Louis capitalized on the power play when Vladimir Tarasenko scored at 8:04 to give the Blues a 1-0 lead. But they didn't score for the remainder of the game while the Wild netted four unanswered goals.
“It was tough to give up the first goal, but very pleased with the way we were able to stay with it,” Yeo said. “Obviously, when your goalie plays like that you give yourself a chance.”
With the game tied 1-1, the Blues’ Alexander Steen had a pair of quality scoring chances in the second period, but Dubnyk stopped both and those proved to be the difference in this game.
Early in the second, Steen made a slick move around a defender and had a point-blank opportunity, but Dubnyk made a timely pad save. Later in the period, St. Louis was pressuring when Steen controlled the puck in front of the Minnesota net and had Dubnyk down and out. Steen was a little too patient with the puck and, when he finally took a shot, Dubnyk was able to recover and make another pad save.
“Yeah, I don’t like being in that position very much,” Dubnyk said with a laugh. Some guys are good at doing that. I’m not Dominik Hasek.”
Those saves gave the Wild momentum, allowing Minnesota to score two goals late in the period for a 3-1 lead. Coyle said those saves energized the bench and Dubnyk’s performance motivated his teammates to find another gear.
“Huge,” Coyle said. “Huge. That’s what he’s done since he’s been here with us, so it’s nothing new to us but it sure is nice to have a guy like that to come up huge when we need it and keep us in the game.”
On the other side, those missed opportunities cost St. Louis the game.
“Look, we’ve got to score more. We’ve got to finish on these chances that we get,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. “In a series where their goalie is playing really well, you can’t get those chances and not finish them and expect to win. You’re not going to win a lot of games scoring one goal.”
The series now shifts back to Minnesota where the Wild have an opportunity to close it out with a win in Game 6 on Sunday. Minnesota played a solid game that led to a road victory in Game 5, but the Wild don’t want to come back here for a possible Game 7.
“We need to treat that game like that’s our Game 7,” Dubnyk said. “You don’t get very many opportunities to finish off a series and we worked to put ourselves in that situation, but we’ve got to understand that coming back here in a Game 7 is going to be a tough situation.”
The Wild have a chance to finish off the Blues thanks to a strong bounce-back from goalie Devan Dubnyk.