Dubnyk leads another Wild victory, 2-1 over Panthers behind goals by Pominville and Parise

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota — When the pucks come his way in the net, Devan Dubnyk can see them clearly.

And so, the Minnesota Wild have their sights set on the playoffs, a goal that seemed almost impossible just a month ago.

Jason Pominville and Zach Parise each scored on assists from Mikko Koivu, and Dubnyk made 26 saves for the Wild in a 2-1 victory on Thursday over the Florida Panthers.

"We had some really good chances, but it just wasn't going in," said Panthers center Nick Bjugstad.

The Wild improved to 9-1-2 in their past 12 games, all with Dubnyk in net. The Wild killed five penalties and stayed perfect short-handed in eight games since the All-Star break at 22 for 22.

"Your best penalty killer is always your goalie, and Dubey was doing a great job back there," coach Mike Yeo said.

Bjugstad scored in his return home, but goalie Roberto Luongo fell to 3-10-2 in his career at Xcel Energy Center as the Panthers started a stretch of seven out of eight games on the road. They play at Dallas on Friday.

Luongo's record in his last 12 starts also fell to 3-7-2. He stopped 21 shots.

"Every game is important. We would have liked to have gotten it to overtime, but we didn't," Luongo said. "We've got another one tomorrow, so the key is to put this one behind us."

The Panthers scored 18 times in their first five February games and had eight power-play goals in their previous eight games, but the Wild are fourth in the NHL in penalty killing. Ryan Suter took a double minor for high-sticking early in the third period, and Nino Niederreiter was called for tripping with 1:19 left as Luongo was pulled for a 6-on-4 advantage. But the Wild, who won their fourth straight home game, didn't budge.

"We've just been working hard, and we're working pretty well together. I'm seeing a lot of shots," Dubnyk said. "There hasn't been a ton of screens, and the guys have blocked a lot, so it's been awesome."

He's done his part, too, by gobbling up as many loose pucks as possible.

"It just makes everybody feel a little bit better when there's not chaos in front of the net," Dubnyk said.

The local boy Bjugstad fooled Dubnyk midway through the second period to pull the Panthers within one. He raced up the right wing and snagged a pass from Jussi Jokinen. Bjugstad snapped a bad-angle shot from the lower edge of the circle. The puck fluttered over Dubnyk's shoulder into the top of the net.

"I don't usually say that I wish I was a few inches taller, but I wish I was a few inches taller there," said the 6-foot-6 Dubnyk. "It was surprising, but great shot. That's kind of one that you tip your cap and move on."

Bjugstad grew up in Blaine, about 25 miles northwest of the Wild's arena, and spent two seasons at the University of Minnesota before turning pro. Bjugstad said before the game he bought about 160 tickets for friends and family, and there were plenty of cheers from the upper deck when he scored.

The 2010 first-round draft pick, who signed a six-year, $24.6 million contract extension in December, has blossomed into Florida's leader this season with 19 goals.

"It's fun to play in front of your family and friends. It would have been better with a win," Bjugstad said.

With Jason Zucker, who's third on the team with a career-high 18 goals, out with a broken collarbone, the onus is on the first line of Pominville, Koivu and Parise to score more than ever for Minnesota. That's just what they did.

Pominville, who scored for the third straight game after going 12 games without scoring, knocked in a pass by Koivu with his skate with just 4:12 elapsed. Pominville didn't make a kicking motion, and the goal was upheld by replay review.

Parise struck next on a second-period power play for his team-leading 22nd goal, set up by slick tic-tac-toe passes from Koivu and Thomas Vanek. His first attempt was denied, but he whacked the rebound past Luongo in traffic at the crease.

NOTES: Jokinen leads the Panthers with 24 assists. ... The Panthers and Washington Capitals are the only NHL teams who have never won a road game in regulation against the Wild. ... Koivu has two goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games.

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