EDMONTON – Devan Dubnyk needed 14 appearances and 11 starts before recording the first win of his NHL career, and then he wasted little time in collecting victory No. 2.
The Edmonton Oilers rookie goaltender made 27 saves to frustrate the San Jose Sharks on Sunday, losing a shutout bid on a goal by Ryane Clowe with 3:02 remaining.
Coming on the heels of a 31-save performance in a 3-2 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday, Dubnyk is putting an 0-8-2 start with the Oilers behind him.
The sudden surge is a case of better late than never.
“I didn’t want to wait 11 starts to get the first one,” smiled Dubnyk. “It’s amazing to get the first win, that winning feeling and get it out of the way.
“Detroit is, obviously, a pretty good hockey team. It’s confidence for myself and the team to know we can go out and beat them and then get another shot at a great hockey team the next day. It’s amazing the relief you get from getting that first one out of the way.”
While there aren’t enough games left in the season for Dubnyk to improve his numbers to where he’d like them – he’s 2-8-2 with a 3.75 goals against average and an .880 saves percentage – he’s put a frustrating start to his first NHL season in the rear-view mirror.
That has the 23-year-old native of Regina, selected 14th overall by the Oilers in the 2004 Entry Draft, feeling better about himself than he did just a few games ago.
“When you’re on a streak like that, it’s tough mentally,” Dubnyk said. “It’s a chance to work on being strong mentally.
“Really, there’s no other way. If you let it overcome you . . . it’s hard enough to get a win any night. If you start letting those things overcome you and feel like you’ve got no chance of winning, then you’re never going to get it done.”
Coach Pat Quinn issued a win-and-you’re-in edict to Dubnyk and Jeff Deslauriers a few weeks ago, but he wavered after the win over San Jose and didn’t commit to his starter for Tuesday’s game with the Vancouver Canucks after practice Monday.
“We’re going to talk about that a little bit,” Quinn said. “There’s a decision time coming for this organization in the sense of one of these two young guys.
“While we thought the idea of win and you play is a good one, and could still be a good one, we also don’t want to get anybody isolated in case we run the table out, that sort of thing.
“Whatever our decision is as to how we’re going forward, when we tell our young goaltenders this is what we’re deciding on right now, it has to make some sense and has to have a sense of fairness to it.”
Deslauriers, 25, has been getting most of the work since Nikolai Khabibulin had his season ended by a bulging disc in his back, but now Dubnyk has found his game. Both are jockeying for position as Khabibulin’s back-up next season.
“We know he’s a good goaltender, but sometimes you press a little bit,” Mike Comrie said of Dubnyk. “It doesn’t matter what position you are.
“For him to get that first win and come back and play an even stronger game the next night, I think that shows he’s a great goaltender. When he starts playing with confidence, he’s going to be able to help this team.”
If Dubnyk gets the nod against the Canucks, he says he’ll be ready. If he doesn’t, suffice to say he’s not about to quibble with the coach just because he has two wins under his belt.
“I’m feeling comfortable and confident,” Dubnyk said. “I’d like to be playing every day right now, but that’s not my decision.
“I’ll be fine with whatever decision is made and just be ready to play the next time I get a chance.”
Notes: Ales Hemsky, who had shoulder surgery in December, skated with the Oilers for the first since the operation Monday. Hemsky cannot yet take any contact on the shoulder and will not play this season. … With rookie defenceman Theo Peckham out with a separated shoulder suffered against San Jose, the Oilers have recalled Dean Arsene from Springfield of the AHL.