Alexander Shun | @alexpshun
Digital Content Manager | KFAN.com
The Minnesota Wild needed a big performance from back-up goaltender Darcy Kuemper and Thursday night, they got exactly what they wished for.
Playing against a high-powered Dallas Stars team, Kuemper remained calm and confident throughout the entirety of the game, stopping 34 of Dallas's 35 shots en route to a 3-1 Wild victory.
"Tonight it was goaltending," Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said after his team's victory Thursday night. "I think for the most part it's the desire to win. We put ourselves in a good position and we want to continue to stay in that position. There is a really good profound desire to succeed.
"I thought [Kuemper] was by far our best player tonight. He played really good" Boudreau continued. "He finally got rewarded for the effort he's been putting in in practice."
Kuemper was helped early on by his teammates staking him to a two-goal lead early in the second period and, despite losing the shutout early in the third, Kuemper maintained his composure and made solid save after solid save.
Boudreau said before the game that he wanted to start Kuemper so as to get him playing time and keep him fresh for the stretch run of the season, during which the team would be physically unable to start top goaltender Devan Dubnyk every night and would need Kuemper to come in and play well.
Kuemper must have heard his coach because he played very well with his best save coming just beyond the midway point of the second period.
Dallas developed a bit of a rush and eventually got the puck to Captain Jamie Benn (one of the league's hottest scorers) who attempted to go five-hole on the Wild goalie but was strongly and smoothly denied as Kuemper slammed the door.
The success of Kuemper Thursday night proves promising for Minnesota going forward as Minnesota's goalie has mostly struggled to be consistent, allowing one goal one night then getting torched for five goals the next. But Kuemper was all over almost every shot Dallas fired at him.
"It's nice when you get a few glove saves early, it gets you in a rhythm," Kuemper said, speaking about his goaltending performance.. "I was fortunate that that happened. I felt pretty good."
Dubnyk will likely start the remaining games of the homestand but the fact that Kuemper has proven he can perform when called upon - even if it was a singular performance - should provide a lot of optimism for Wild coaches and fans. Particularly come playoff time.