ST. PAUL -- In the latest biggest game of the season, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau went with his backup goaltender Sunday over slumping No. 1 Devan Dubnyk.
Alex Stalock got the start against the St. Louis Blues for the first time since an overtime loss Feb. 2 against Chicago. The former Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs goalie was blitzed for four goals, but essentially blameless as Minnesota coughed up two power-play goals and allowed another off a three-on-one rush.
Dubnyk had started nine of the past 10 games but was tarred with consecutive home losses to Philadelphia and New Jersey. Against the Devils, he allowed two long-range goals and turned over the puck that led to the overtime winner.
Boudreau said Dubnyk’s workload and leaky play led him to start Stalock.
“I thought everybody likes Alex so much that they would play for him,” he said. “I thought if we didn’t do it, we’re just sitting there saying, ‘Hey, no matter how good you are or how bad you are, you’re going back in.’
“Sometimes you have to make them accountable a little bit, too.”
Stalock, who fell to 6-6-1, shrugged off a question about starting a big game against the Central Division team the Wild are pursuing.
“I think every game is big; I don’t think we have small games on our schedule,” he said. “It’s just another game for us to get back in the win column.”
For the first half of the season, the Wild boasted one of the NHL’s top penalty-killing units, but those days are long gone.
Minnesota yielded a pair of power-play goals to St. Louis in the first period. It was the fourth straight game the Wild had allowed a power-play goal. Moreover, they have given up 12 in their last 14 games.
“When you take five penalties in a game … and they’ve got a really good power play, then you know you’re in trouble,” said Boudreau.
It only took 18 seconds for the Blues to capitalize on their first power play. Marcus Foligno over-pursued puck carrier Ryan O’Reilly and left sniper Vladimir Tarasenko alone on the left wing. Tarasenko buried his chance, and St. Louis never looked back.
“The first one’s my fault with Tarasenko, kind of got caught a little bit too high,” Foligno said.
Boudreau said he and his assistant coaches are doing their due diligence getting special teams prepared for each game and laid the onus on his players.
“We’re losing the special-teams battles, and when you lose those battles you usually lose the game,” he said.
Left wing Pontus Aberg skated with the Wild during pregame warm-ups but remains on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. … Defenseman Brad Hunt played right wing on the fourth line for the second straight game.