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Goalie nods: Dubnyk goes for Wild in first place showdown with Blackhawks

It was exactly two years ago that a struggling Minnesota Wild team made what seemed to be a desperation trade, acquiring Devan Dubnyk for a third-round draft pick to fix what was at the time disastrous goaltending situation.

It was a significant moment for both Dubnyk and the Wild.

Dubnyk used the fresh start to turn his career around after a tough finish in Edmonton that saw him bounce around to Nashville and Arizona, and it solidified a position that had become a huge trouble spot for the Wild.

Since joining the Wild in a January 2015 trade with the Coyotes, Dubnyk has been one of the NHL’s best goaltenders with a .928 save percentage in 139 appearances. Among goalies with at least 100 appearances during that stretch, nobody has a better one. For as good as he was in the second half of the 2014-15 season, and through much of the 2015-16 season, he has been even better this season and is currently putting together his best season in the NHL and carries a league-leading .940 save percentage into Sunday’s first place showdown against the Chicago Blackhawks.

He has been arguably the Wild’s best player during this recent 19-game stretch that has seen them go on a 16-1-2 run, and it should have him as the current leader in the clubhouse when it comes to the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top netminder.

Naturally, he will get the start on Sunday night against the Blackhawks as he looks to keep this fantastic stretch of play — both his own and the Wild as a team — rolling.

The Blackhawks are countering with their No. 1 goalie, Corey Crawford.

Crawford is still one of the NHL’s top goalies, but his play has cooled a bit since he returned from the appendectomy that sidelined him for a few weeks in December (which is probably to be expected). Still, with the Blackhawks giving up close to 32 shots on goal per game his play has been a big part of their success this season.

Elsewhere…

— Phillip Grubauer went for the Washington Capitals in their afternoon game against Steve Mason and the Philadelphia Flyers.

Cory Schneider returns to Vancouver to face his former team when he gets the call for the New Jersey Devils when they take on the Canucks. This has easily been Schneider’s worst season in the NHL as a starter and he is looking to snap a personal four-game losing streak on Sunday night. The Canucks have not announced a starter but it is likely to be Ryan Miller.

— After recording a 23-save shutout on Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks the St. Louis Blues are going back to Carter Hutton for the second part of their back-to-back. He will go against Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson who has started to get on a roll over the past couple of weeks. He has allowed just five goals in his past five starts, a stretch that includes two shutouts.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.