LAS VEGAS (AP) — They don’t call it the wild, wild West for nothing.
The aptly named Minnesota Wild are still alive in the Western Conference playoff race after Devan Dubnyk stopped 35 shots in a 3-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday night.
Despite the loss, the Golden Knights clinched their second consecutive playoff berth when playoff-contending Arizona lost in a shootout at Colorado, which currently holds the second wild-card spot.
Four teams sitting below the Western Conference playoff line – Arizona, Minnesota, Chicago and Edmonton – are within eight points of the second wild-card spot, currently held by Colorado.
“It’s desperate, we know where we’re at,” said Wild center Eric Staal, who had a goal and an assist in the win. “We were crossing our fingers that Arizona beat Colorado tonight just to kind of tighten it up a little bit more. But we needed to win and we knew that going into tonight and we were desperate. I thought we were solid, competitive through our lineup. We deserved the win tonight, now you just have to follow it up Sunday for us.”
The Wild, who are six points back of the second Avalanche, face Arizona on Sunday. The Coyotes are three points in front of Minnesota, which improved to 5-0-1 all-time against Vegas, including a perfect 3-0-0 at T-Mobile Arena.
“Sometimes against certain teams you get good feelings and I think we’re confident in what we can do against this team,” Staal said. “They got a good team. It’s always been a tight battle every time we’ve played them. This is a great building. It’s pretty easy to get up for the game. It was a good two points.”
Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said while he’s happy with another blue-collar win by his team, he acknowledged it was hard not to keep one eye on the score of the Colorado-Arizona game, as the Wild were hoping for a Coyotes win.
“You came away with 18 players working together and a goalie playing really well, and that’s how you win,” he said. “All we can worry about is ourselves. … We’ve got to focus on our next game.”
Minnesota came in mired in a 3-6-1 slide, but fueled by a playoff hunt, opened the game with a 3-0 lead on goals by Greg Pateryn, Staal and Kevin Fiala.
Paul Stastny scored both of Vegas’ goals, and Malcolm Subban made 30 saves. Subban dropped to 0-4-0 against the Wild.
But it was Dubnyk who was the star of the night, improving to 4-0-1 against the Golden Knights with a 1.80 goals against average against the second-year franchise.
The 6-foot-6 netminder made two of his biggest saves of the season during the game, both of which defined how dominating he has been against Vegas.
In the second period, he laid out to stop Mark Stone on one side of the goal. Instead, Stone skated with the puck behind the net and attempted to score on a wraparound, but Dubnyk scrambled to make a highlight-reel glove save.
“I shouldn’t have gone fishing in the first place, that was where the problem started there,” Dubnyk said. “I reached and couldn’t get there, so when he picked it up, I was kind of in trouble and you’ve just got to find your shortest route back there. I usually take pride in trying not to roll around like that, but sometimes you’ve got to have some desperation and those are fun when you get a chance to make them.”
In the game’s waning moments, Dubnyk extended his leg to stonewall Stastny with his pad to preserve the win for the Wild.
The Golden Knights, who are five points behind San Jose in the Pacific Division, travel to play the Sharks on Saturday.
“I’m real happy. I may not look it right now, but it’s an 82-game schedule and you try to make the playoffs,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant. “We would’ve loved to win the hockey game tonight . but we made the playoffs tonight, so that’s a big accomplishment.”
NOTES: Pateryn’s first-period goal ended the longest active goalless drought in the NHL at 130 games. The longest streak now belongs to Montreal’s Victor Mete at 116 games. … The game marked the return of Brad Hunt, who was traded from Vegas to Minnesota after the Wild beat the Golden Knights on Jan. 21. … The Twin Cities chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) announced the nomination of Wild D Ryan Suter for the NHL’s Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, presented annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Vegas’ chapter of the PHWA nominated Golden Knights C Ryan Carpenter. … Since a 10-1-0 run, Vegas is 0-3-1 in its last four games.
Minnesota: Visits Arizona on Sunday.
Vegas: Visits San Jose on Saturday.