The Sharks' contest vs. the Minnesota Wild on Friday night had a little more meaning to goalie Devan Dubnyk.
Dubnyk made his return to Xcel Energy Arena, facing his former team for the first time since the Wild traded him to San Jose last October. Dubnyk was solid enough in his homecoming, but the Sharks faltered, losing 4-1 in Minnesota's home opener.
For Dubnyk, who spent the previous six seasons with Minnesota, returning to St. Paul was a surreal experience.
"It was strange," he said to reporters after the game. "I knew it was going to be weird for many reasons, coming back, not having fans. I wanted to go out and try to play."
"I had to sit myself down after the first [period] and tell myself to relax," Dubnyk added. "I was a little fired up and overthinking stuff."
Those emotions were showcased early.
Dubnyk made 25 saves, but allowed goals to former teammates Joel Eriksson Ek and Zach Parise. Ek scored at the 5:01 mark in the first period but Matt Nieto quickly knotted the game back up, scoring San Jose's lone goal just over a minute later.
Dubnyk settled down after that, allowing one more goal to Parise midway through the second period. The Wild scored two empty-net goals in the final minutes of the game.
Parise's goal might have come with a cost, though. According to Dubnyk, his former teammate had left tickets for his family to attend the game.
"That was good karma on his part," Dubnyk said. "Shortly after he put it in the back of the net."
Friday's contest served as a reunion for Dubnyk and forward Ryan Donato. Both were traded to the Sharks in two separate deals. Donato was swapped for the Sharks' 2021 third-round draft pick. The Wild gained San Jose's 2022 fifth-round draft pick in exchange for the 34-year-old goalie and a seventh-round pick in 2022. The two received video tributes before the game.
Donato had his fair share of chances, putting up five shots on goal. His play has been encouraging to Dubnyk, who is in his third season playing alongside the 24-year-old.
"I think he’s played great just about every game," Dubynk said. "He’s had chances almost every night. He’s got a great shot and those chances will start to go in."
In his six-year tenure with the Wild, Dubnyk held a combined record of 117-113-28 over 328 regular season games. He'll continue to split time with Martin Jones as the Sharks platoon the two goalies.