March of the Penguins

Edmonton Oilers' Devan Dubnyk watches the puck go into the net against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  ...

Edmonton Oilers' Devan Dubnyk watches the puck go into the net against the Pittsburgh Penguins. (REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI , QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

At first, Devan Dubnyk's reaction was, "Wow, I'm going to be starting against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguns."

Followed a few seconds later by "Uh-oh, I'm going to be starting against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins."

Both reactions were bang on last night as the 23-year-old netminder, with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin bearing down on him and Canadian Olympian Marc-Andre Fleury at the other end of the ice, pitched 40 shutout minutes and looked like he had a great story to tell his kids one day.

But those were the Penguins, and these are the Oilers, so we all know how it ended up.

As the Oilers so often do in these situations, they got stage fright and let a 2-0 lead slip away with three Pens goals in the third in a 3-2 loss.

Halfway through the third, a Jordan Staal pass -- one of his three assists -- banked off the skate of Pascal Dupius past Dubnyk.

Tyler Kennedy broke the shuout bid and made it 2-1 Pens three minutes into the final frame. Three minutes later it was tied when Matt Cooke backhanded a rebound off a Staal shot.

"It hurts a bit, it obviously would have been nice to get my first win out of this one," said Dubnyk, who was making only his third career NHL start. "But that third goal ... goes off a guy's leg and into the net ... I can't sit here and say I'm not disappointed about losing the game, but I can say that it was a good experience for me to get out there and be confident and comfortable playing against some pretty great hockey players."

He didn't look at all out of place, stopping 28 of 31 shots.

"It wasn't one of those games where I thought I was playing above myself or getting lucky," said the former first-round draft pick (14th overall in 2004).

"It was fun to be out there, feeling like I was in position and they didn't really have anything (to shoot at). It was a good experience that way, but it does hurt a bit."

Not so much that it takes the shine off his situation. Fate works in strange ways, and a guy who was third on the organizational depth chart when the season began thought he'd be spending the entire year in Springfield. Now, here he is, basically a co-starter in Edmonton.

He still has to shake his head at the way things turned out.

"It's healthy to stop once in a while and appreciate where you are and where you came from," he said.

"It's a great opportunity, and they come in weird ways. Take a look at Steve Mason last year, he starts in the American League and bang he's there. I'm not jumping the gun or anything like that, but opportunities come. I'm here and I'm just going to try and play my best."

Teams normally like to ease young goaltenders into the NHL, but Dubnyk's been pushed into the deep end now that Nikolai Khabibulin is out for the season. He'll be playing a lot down the stretch, in front of a cruddy team, so it's not going to be easy.

But it will be fun.

"You have to be grateful for the things that are presented in front of you," he said.

"You can't sit there and say I wish I started on the best team in the league ... You can't make up these situations. I'm in the NHL ...I'm grateful for this chance and every start that I get I'm ecstatic for. I would never wish for anything else."

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