CHICAGO – Devan Dubnyk saw the bench so quickly during Sunday’s nationally televised game against the Chicago Blackhawks, he probably didn’t need to shower before the Wild’s flight to Washington.
For the first time this season, the No. 1 goalie got an early exit from a hockey game after allowing goals on Chicago’s first two shots before an eventual 4-2 loss in the final regular-season meeting against the nemesis Blackhawks at United Center.
“You follow a goalie for 68 games, you sort of know his traits and his trends,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He didn’t look like he was following the puck well. … I just thought he didn’t have it tonight.”
Darcy Kuemper, whom Dubnyk replaced for a win in the Wild’s previous game at Florida, entered 4:38 into the game after superstars Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin teamed for each goal.
The Wild faced multiple-goal deficits in all four games against Chicago this season. In two others, the Wild rallied for a combined three points.
Sunday, Minnesota arguably deserved at least one. The Wild dramatically outchanced the Blackhawks, outshot them 44-22 and had a 72-43 shot attempt edge.
After two periods, despite a 33-15 shots lead and 53 shot attempts, the Wild trailed 3-1 because two-time Stanley Cup winner Corey Crawford looked like the Crawford that often stymies the Wild in the playoffs.
He made 42 saves and was dialed in especially during a 20-save second period. In the third with a chance to tie, Charlie Coyle hit a post and Erik Haula was stuffed on a breakaway.
“That’s got to be a goal, especially against these guys,” Haula said. “When they get those chances, it’s always in the net. I’ve just got to bury that. We should be in overtime right now — at least.”
The Blackhawks always capitalize on mistakes against the Wild. A great example was Marian Hossa’s breakaway goal with 6:18 left despite the Wild peppering Crawford just before. Jared Spurgeon had just come inches from tying the score.
In the second period, Matt Dumba’s pinch on a 50-50 puck caused an odd-man rush, but then Ryan White left Marco Scandella on an island by himself. White tripped Jordin Tootoo, then gave up on the play to complain to the referee about the delayed penalty. That enabled Trevor van Riemsdyk to bury Marcus Kruger’s pass for a 3-1 lead.
Mikael Granlund stole a puck from Nick Schmaltz and pulled off a beautiful shot and snipe 46 seconds onto the third, but that would be all she wrote for the Wild, which fell to 4-4 since the Martin Hanzal/White pickups.
“It’s disappointing,” Boudreau said of the loss. “[The Blackhawks] were there to be had today.”
With the early 11:30 a.m. faceoff — felt like 10:30 a.m. because of the change to daylight saving time — both teams played in front of a packed house during the hours typical of two morning skates.
Dubnyk and his teammates in the first five minutes looked as if they hit the snooze bottom or skipped their morning coffee.
Other than two planned pulls in the final game of the regular season before the playoffs, this was the third time in Dubnyk’s 157-start Wild career that he was yanked.
“I always want to stay in and want to battle,” Dubnyk said. “That’s completely up to him to decide what he wants to do. If he didn’t think I was ready or he wants a spark, he’s the coach and my job is to be ready to stay in there and battle if I need to.”
The Wild’s lead in the Western Conference and Central Division over Chicago is down to one point with a game in hand. Outplaying the Blackhawks — a team that eliminated Minnesota in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 playoffs — but losing offered no solace, especially when the Wild could meet them in the second round of the playoffs.
“We are after wins here,” said Eric Staal, who scored his 22nd goal in the first period. “We have a team that comes to play and comes to get two points every time we get on the ice. That’s our mind-set.”