Devan Dubnyk was riding a four-game winning streak, but in many of his starts since the All-Star break, the Wild goaltender seemed to be good for one goofy goal a game.
Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center, he was good for three — including a funky goal seconds after he felt Kyle Brodziak was offside — and it resulted in his second early exit of the season.
The St. Louis Blues, off since Tuesday, took advantage early of a Wild team playing for the eighth time in 13 nights, then fended off a late push for a 4-2 victory and seventh win in their past eight road games.
Ryan Suter and Matt Dumba scored late third-period goals, but the buzzing Wild couldn’t find the equalizer before Robby Fabbri’s empty-netter ended Minnesota’s four-game winning streak.
“I liked how they responded being down 3-0,” interim coach John Torchetti said. “You learn from losses, that’s for sure, but you certainly learned about our character.”
The eighth-place Wild remained two points up on idle Colorado. When the Wild next plays Edmonton on Thursday, it’ll have two games in hand on the Avalanche, which plays Arizona on Monday and Anaheim on Wednesday.
Despite the Wild playing for the second time in two days, Torchetti started Dubnyk instead of backup Darcy Kuemper in part because of Dubnyk’s strong play during a two-game sweep in Toronto and Buffalo.
It wasn’t your normal back-to-back because the Wild was back in Minnesota by early Saturday night. Plus, Dubnyk gave up seven goals total in his final six second games of back-to-back starts last season, the Wild has the next three days off and Kuemper gave up a bad winning goal his previous start in Washington.
So while starting Dubnyk maybe made sense, the goalie arguably gave up three shaky goals on 16 shots in the first 30 minutes, 17 seconds.
“I’ve got to play better than that,” said Dubnyk, who since the All-Star break has allowed three or more goals in nine of 14 starts.
Dubnyk actually covered up for the sloppy Wild early, but after rookie Mike Reilly passed the puck onto Jori Lehtera’s stick, Dubnyk gave up a goal on an unscreened 33-footer. Less than two minutes later, fourth-line winger Ryan Reaves beat Dubnyk short-side with a 51-footer from the right circle.
Torchetti challenged that Brodziak entered the zone offside. Replays showed that a backing-up Brodziak — the former Wild center — clearly preceded the puck into the zone, but linesmen Brad Kovachik and Brian Mach ruled that Brodziak had possession and control of the puck before his skates crossed the blue line.
That is the correct rule, but it was debatable whether Brodziak had control.
“This is the play that they brought the coaches challenge in for, this exact play,” Dubnyk said. “It’s so offside that both our defensemen [Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin] stopped playing, and all of a sudden [the Blues]have twice as much room as they would.
“You have guys on the other bench that are laughing after the goal is called.”
Dubnyk feels the NHL Situation Room should rule on challenges, not the officials tasked with possibly overturning their own calls. Regardless, Torchetti said Dubnyk surely would want the first two goals back. As for Dubnyk’s assertion his defensemen stopped playing, Torchetti said, “We teach play to the whistle, right?”
Later, Dubnyk punched a rebound right to Patrik Berglund for a goal. It didn’t help that after Chris Porter’s turnover, five defenders became puck-focused on David Backes.
The Wild will take Monday off, then practice for two days before the Oilers arrive. The Wild could use the rest after 15 games in 27 days that included the firing of Mike Yeo.
“The schedule’s been kind of unrelenting,” Ryan Carter said.
Added Dumba: “The last couple weeks, we’ve been all over the map. We’ve been to Vancouver, we’ve been to Toronto. We’ve covered the whole country. … We’ve been playing some good hockey. Tonight was just one of those nights.”