EDMONTON - Devan Dubnyk may have wanted the game for the fans and the players in front of him.
But he very much needed it for himself.
“You want to be a No. 1 in this league, you have to nail a couple of these together to get your team going,” said coach Tom Renney after Dubnyk stopped 44 of 45 shots through overtime and then made three of four saves in the shootout to provide the Oilers with a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks.
“This is a good one to feed off of and build off of. He has to seize the moment. And as a team we have to be better in front of our goaltender.
“That being said, we worked as hard as we can around our system to try protect our goaltender,” the coach, who suggested he and his team have been suffering from an acute case of chronicling, added.
When you lose your 16th game in 17 starts to Calgary and have a significant percentage of the lineup not showing any try in a hard-hat working-man’s town for the third time in the last five games, the next game is always going to be under the microscope in terms of effort produced up and down the lineup.
With the team having only won five of their previous 25, there was added focus on how they’d respond for their coach and the crowd this night.
“It was important for us,” said the young man who earned the right to be the starting netminder.
“We owe it to our fans,” said Dubnyk.
“You don’t have to win 41 games at home but you have to continue to give them an effort.
“We owe it to give them an effort every single night.”
Dubnyk, who brought his goals-against average down to 2.93 and his save percentage up to .902, giving up a shutout on the power play when Ales Hemsky took a five minute major for knee-to-knee contact with Brent Burns, took the first start of the season.
He had a chance to be No. 1, the starting goaltender, for the first time in his career.
But it hasn’t happened.
“At this point, I just want to get back out there and have fun,” he said. “I enjoy playing at home.
“To be a starting goalie you need to put 2-3-4-5, 10 games together. I want to show the Oilers I’m a starting goalie.”
In a way, the way this one went for him, it’s too bad the All-Star break is one game away.
“I want to use that good feeling to take to the rest of the season,” he said of his first-rate game Monday, a rare recent case where a player has put his name on the game in a winning effort.
Goaltending can be everything for a team at either end of the standings.
If you remember when the Oilers were 8-2-2 to start the season, they were getting goaltending.
Part of it, of course, was that the goaltenders were getting some real try and solid play in front of them.
Since then, the goaltending has been up and down like a toilet seat and the play in front of them, particularly from a highly suspect defensive corps, wasn’t giving them much support, either.
Sometimes the Oilers have wasted great games of goaltending. And other games, like the one Saturday against Calgary, the early goaltending was as bad as the skaters were.
But on Monday Dubnyk, with the team in front of him playing rope-a-dope hockey, won one in overtime.
“Our job is to go out there and give the team a chance to win. At the start of the year we were playing well from the goaltenders on out. Since then the goaltending has had to be better on more nights than it has been.
“I like to analyze myself. And I’m harder on myself than anybody else is. If you want to achieve greatness, I think you have to do that.
“I want to be better for these guys.”
Monday he was.
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