ST. PAUL — Bruce Boudreau has been behind the bench for 867 games during his 12 seasons as an NHL coach. This means the 63-year-old has attempted a variety of moves to jump-start his teams, whether that be the Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks or Minnesota Wild.
But until Wednesday night, Boudreau had never pulled a goalie after 52 minutes, 39 seconds of play with the score tied in favor of the backup. Boudreau made the highly unusual move by yanking starter Devan Dubnyk and replacing him with Alex Stalock after the Ottawa Senators had rallied from a 4-1 deficit to tie the score on Colin White’s goal at 12:55 of the third.
“I’ve never made that change in my life, and I don’t want to make that change,” Boudreau said. “I thought we needed a break and without calling a timeout. Sometimes you call a timeout and that energizes the other team because they think you’re afraid.”
Boudreau strategy clearly did not sit well with Dubnyk — “I never want to be taken out of a game,” Dubnyk said. ” … I always feel like I’m in control and can play; I feel like I’ve played enough games to stick it out, but it doesn’t matter, we won.” — but it worked to near perfection.
Just over a minute after Stalock entered Eric Staal’s second goal of the game put the Wild ahead and Eric Fehr’s empty-net goal at 19:22 gave Minnesota a 6-4 victory. Still, it was easy to see Dubnyk’s disgust with the situation as he glared straight ahead in his goal as Stalock came off the bench and got ready to come in.
“You make the change and the change was long enough that I think it gave our guys a chance to calm down a little bit,” Boudreau said. “It took a while for Alex to get in the net. We calmed down and then as soon as Eric scored, we got back our (feeling of), ‘OK, we’re OK again.'”
Dubnyk had given up four goals on 26 shots before departing. Stalock stopped the only shot he saw as the Wild ended a two-game losing streak and Stalock picked up probably the easiest win he will ever get.
Boudreau certainly made the change in part to give his team a jolt after the Senators had gotten a shorthanded goal and then two at even strength to tie the score. But Boudreau also was concerned about how Dubnyk was playing, especially after he gave up two third-period goals on Saturday as Buffalo rallied for a 3-2 victory at Xcel Energy Center.
“I thought he was rattled a little bit, but he’s been my No. 1 goalie since I got here,” Boudreau said. “I was going to let him (stay) in there, but on the heels of the Buffalo game and on the heels of this I thought we needed to calm down a bit.”
Dubnyk entered Wednesday with a 9-5-2 record, a 2.36 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 16 games. Stalock had only played in five games.
Dubnyk expressed frustration with his own performance, pointing to the shorthanded goal he surrendered to Ottawa defenseman Thomas Chabot at 52 seconds of the third period. Chabot’s shot from the high slot beat Dubnyk to the glove side to make it 4-2.
“It’s the second goal that can’t happen,” Dubnyk said. “There’s just points in the game where momentum shifts, and probably you can easily avoid the 4-2 goal. Even if we don’t score a goal on (that) power play, those are big points in the game. Obviously, they get a seeing-eye one in the third and the guy, I don’t even know what he did on the one-timer in front, I’ve never seen a puck go up over the net and then come back down from that close. But there are certain plays in the game that if they don’t happen, then those don’t happen. Like I said, it’s a regulation win and that’s really all that matters.”
The one-timer in front came on a play in which White took a backhand pass from Tom Pyatt in the near corner, partially fanned on his attempt to shoot the puck, sent it up in the air and off the crossbar and down into the net as Dubnyk ducked down expecting a direct shot.
That’s when Boudreau decided change was necessary.
“In the third period, I can’t remember if I’ve ever done that with under 10 minutes, to pull a goalie, because it has a double effect,” he said. “The guy that’s going in is as cold as ice, it’s like putting a guy in for shootout, so you don’t want to do that. I just thought it was needed at that time.”
Boudreau could have taken a bow afterward but declined to do so. “You never know if it had anything to do with that or it’s just the guys dug deep for Duby and for Alex, who they both respect and like an awful lot,” he said.
As for Dubnyk, he said getting the two points in regulation took some of the sting out of being lifted, although the tone of his voice said otherwise. “It’s what we’re here for to win the game, so that’s all that matters,” he said.
We’ll just have to take his word for it.