Vezina finalist Dubnyk steals the show in Game 5
Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk blocks the shot of St. Louis Blues left winger Alexander Steen during the second period in Game 5 of the first round of the 2015 NHL playoffs at Scottrade Center on April 24, 2015. (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)
ST. LOUIS — On the day he was named a Vezina Trophy candidate, Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk stole the show.
Dubnyk was outstanding Friday night, backstopping the Wild to a 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues and a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference quarterfinal series.
Game 6 takes place Sunday in Minnesota with the Wild getting an opportunity to wrap up the series on home ice.
“It was a real exciting day,” Dubnyk said. “Obviously game day, but just talking with friends and family when you get the news (Vezina candidate) it’s pretty exciting and you just spend a little bit of time reflecting on the past year. It was a year ago today I was on the C squad in Montreal. It’s been a long road and I got a chance to talk to some important people in my life today that have supported me through a whole run and it was nice to get that news today.”
Dubnyk finished with 36 saves, many of which were quality for the goaltender, who was a member of the Montreal Canadiens Black Aces during last year’s playoffs, having been discarded by two organizations.
Friday was a bounce-back effort for Dubnyk, pulled after conceding six goals in 17 shots in a Game 4 loss on Wednesday.
“It was easy to put the last game behind me,” Dubnyk said. “Everything we’ve been through, the belief that we have as a group in here of how good of a team we are, there was no doubt from anybody in here that we were going to come and have a better hockey game.”
Earlier in the day, Dubnyk, Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne and Carey Price of the Canadiens had been nominated for the award that determines the league’s top goaltender.
Dubnyk was the reason the Wild were even after the first period despite getting out-shot 12-3 in the frame. He made a number of big saves and was only beaten by Vladimir Tarasenko who converted an outstanding setup from Alexander Steen on the power play.
“I wouldn’t say I was surprised (with Dubnyk’s play),” said Wild head coach Mike Yeo. “He’s had to respond at different times during the season not losing back-to-back games. And in adverse situations that’s just how he’s responded, just his demeanor, he’s very confident, calm cool and collected type of guy.”
St. Louis should have extended the lead, dictating the play in the first period. But after a few more impressive saves by Dubnyk, the Wild were able to tie the game on a goal from Marco Scandella. The Wild defenceman found some room down the right wing and fired a shot that bounced off the catching glove of Blues goaltender Jake Allen and up into the net. Allen finished with 15 saves.
In the second, the Wild worked their way back into the game, but still needed Dubnyk to come up big.
The six-foot-six goaltender made a great save on Steen, who broke in down an open late up the middle and fired a shot heading for the bottom corner. Dubnyk, however, was able to kick out a pad to turn the Blues winger away.
Moments later, Steen had another opportunity, but was robbed by Dubnyk, who was down on the play, but was still able to get a pad up and turn the shot away.
“That was a game changer right there,” said Wild winger Zach Parise. “We came back and scored right away and rather than being down 2-1, we were up 3-1 and at that time of the game it was such a big save.”
The Blues went on to rue the missed opportunities when Nino Niederreiter put Minnesota ahead with his second goal of the series on a one-timer from the slot.
Less than 90 seconds later, Mikko Koivu put the Wild up 3-1 on the power play, getting a fortunate bounce on a centering attempt out of the corner.
Koivu was looking for Stewart on a cross-crease pass, but the puck bounced off the skate of Blues defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, then the out-stretched stick of Allen and into the net.
Minnesota took the lead into the third period, where Dubnyk was once again sharp. He stuck out a pad to deny Patrik Berglund from the slot, turned away an effort from Kevin Shattenkirk and was able to find the puck late through a screen to knock an Alex Pietrangelo shot into the stands.
“We have to score more, we have to finish on these chances that we get,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock. “You can’t get three or four chances in the second period in a series where their goalie is playing really well. You can’t get those chances and not finish them and expect to win.”