The first moments of last night's game against the New York Rangers were not pretty. In fact, they were downright ugly as the Wild got off to a trademark slow start, looking confused in their own zone and not deliberate out of it. The Rangers grabbed the opening faceoff and danced right in to set up their offense without much contest from the Wild defenders. On one particular zone exit, the Wild coughed the puck up in the neutral zone to Keith Yandle, who had a clear line straight to Dubnyk as Marco Scandella and Nate Prosser pushed forward. The Wild defensemen hustled back but just couldn't catch up. Scandella reached out and hooked Yandle to impede him. The ref's arm went up and Yandle was awarded a penalty shot.
The Wild are one of just 3 teams who have not been to a shootout in 2015-16, nor had they faced a penalty shot to date. So Wild goaltenders had had 0 opportunities on the season. Devan Dubnyk was just 49 seconds into his first game action since December 5th, and instead of protecting the potentially rusty goaltender, the Wild defense laid an egg and backed Dubnyk into a corner almost immediately. Dubnyk had previously injured his groin and found it hard to push from side to side, which led to his time off of the ice. But thanks to the productive play of Darcy Kuemper, the Wild had been able to take their time getting Dubnyk back into the lineup. The team also needed to keep Dubnyk sharp, and the crossroads between injury recovery and staying sharp met today, so Dubnyk was in the net.
The Rangers, on the other hand, held the NHL lead with 4 penalty shot attempts already in the season, and this would be their 5th. Yandle had been 0-for-2 in his career prior to this attempt. He gathered the puck in at the center line and headed down the right wing with some speed. He didn't take a fancy route, opting rather to sweep in and wait for his shot. He swung in just above the crease and saw daylight above Dubnyk's glove and fired high. Dubnyk snapped his wrist and made quick work of the snap shot with his glove, looking confident in doing so. Not only was it a great save, but it sent a message that Dubnyk was locked in and ready to go.
Dubnyk followed up the penalty shot save with 3 solid periods, making all the saves he should have and showing very, very few signs of rust. The Wild saw that they could play confidently in front of their goaltender and were quickly able to find the momentum they had generated from the previous game's 6 goals. The momentum spilled over on special teams as well with the Wild going 2-for-3 on the power play and perfect on the penalty kill. It was a good night all around, but could have had a very different tone without a confident performance from Dubynk.