ST. PAUL, Minn. – Anton Khudobin acknowledged feeling a little nervous at the start of his sudden NHL debut.
He sure didn’t show it.
Khudobin’s flawless emergency goaltending helped the Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 late Thursday.
“It’s pretty tough, but what can you do?” said Khudobin, who was awarded his first NHL career victory after stopping a total of nine shots in less than 10 minutes after Josh Harding was injured. “It’s your job. You have to do it.”
Antti Miettinen’s early third-period goal, his career-high 16th, made it 2-1 for the Wild before the game took a dramatic turn.
Marc Pouliot punched in the tying score in thick traffic for Edmonton while a sprawled-out Harding desperately tried to keep the puck from getting in.
Harding aggravated a hip injury he’s been bothered by lately on that play and later hurt it worse while making a highlight-reel diving save of a dangerous, open shot by Jean-Francois Jacques.
With regular starter Niklas Backstrom sick and another backup Wade Dubielewicz scratched for the game, Khudobin was sent in with 9:33 remaining.
“Everybody came to me and just said, ‘Relax. Play your game,”‘ said Khudobin, who was called up from Houston of the American Hockey League before the game. “I just said to myself, ‘I have to stop the first shot, and it’ll be OK after that.”
The Kazakh made several difficult saves during a power play to help preserve the victory, and the Wild scored twice more.
Coach Todd Richards was beaming afterward about the rookie goalie’s performance.
“He looked confident and ready to go,” Richards said. “Those young kids, when you get your opportunity you’re always thinking about succeeding.”