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Dubnyk rebounds from shaky start

 Devan Dubnyk gets up close and personal with the puck during the Edmonton Oilers game against the...

Devan Dubnyk gets up close and personal with the puck during the Edmonton Oilers game against the Atlanta Thrashers at Rexall Place on Saturday. Dubnyk let in the first shot he faced, but rebounded to backstop the Oilers to a 5-3 win. (Codie McLachlan, Edmonton Sun)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:47 PM ET

EDMONTON - As far as starts goes, they don’t get any worse for a goaltender.

Letting in an unscreened knuckle ball from the blue-line on the opening shot of the contest, is the stuff of nightmares for NHL puck stoppers.

Some would not have been able to recover.

But Edmonton Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who’s as cool as they come, was able to shake it off and backstop his team to a 5-3 win over the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday.

“It’s never one you want to give up,” said Dubnyk. “You never want to start by giving up an unscreened shot from the point.

“But from there you just try to buckle down and try to make sure they don’t get another one in the period.”

Dubnyk was fooled by Dustin Byfuglien’s effort early in the first period, letting it get past his blocker.

The Thrashers’ defenceman appeared to break his stick on the shot, which took a strange trajectory towards the net then dropped at the last second.

“It dove pretty hard,” Dubnyk said. “It was going far right, and it cut back and down about two feet. The problem with that guy shooting, too, it was like a 95 mph curveball.”

The goal was Byfulien’s 18th of the season and it gave the Thrashers the lead 4:37 into the first period.

It was the first shot on goal for the Thrashers, who would finish with 31 in the game.

“It doesn’t feel good, it’s not the way you want to start the game,” Dubnyk said. “I’ve felt pretty good with my starts this year and going in, I felt good again (Saturday), but it was a tough way to start the game. There is nothing you can do about it, there is a lot of hockey to play after that, so you just try to buckle down and stop the next one, it’s just as important.”

Dubnyk did manage to turn away the rest of the shots he saw in the first period, but was beaten again early in the second as Andrew Ladd chopped a rebound into the roof of the net.

The Thrashers pressed to for a third for the remainder of the frame, but Dubnyk was able to stand tall allowing the Oilers to battle back.

“That first one was a big of a knuckler, a little bit of a sinker,” said Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff. “But we knew he was still going to be confident out there. That’s the biggest thing with him, he’s so calm back there and things like that, like a bad goal, don’t affect him.

“That’s probably the first bad goal I’ve seen from him in a long time. That’s going to happen from time to time, but we had full confidence he would be able to bounce back from that.”

Thanks to an outstanding third-period performance from Taylor Hall, the Oilers were able to bail out their goaltender.

The Oilers rookie scored three consecutive power-play goals to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead. It was a welcome sight to Dubnyk, who much like Nikolai Khabibulin, had not been provided with a lot of offensive support this season.

“It was just exciting to be a part of,” Dubnyk said. “That was a special performance by Hallsy. It was just hard work, going to the net and just that special touch around the net. You give him credit for going to the net and you give him credit for being able to put it home. It was pretty incredible, that atmosphere watching that happen.

“The boys had a lot of time to battle back for me and they did a pretty good job (Saturday).”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


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