With a playoff spot already secured and a journeyman goalie starting, another loss by the Minnesota Wild to the St. Louis Blues seemed inevitable.
Not so fast.
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Kyle Brodziak scored two goals and John Curry made 43 saves in his Wild debut to lead Minnesota over the struggling Blues 4-2 on Thursday night.
Nino Niederreiter added a goal and an assist to help the Wild snap a nine-game losing streak against the Blues and win for the sixth time in seven games.
"I was obviously very thankful to get the opportunity, no matter how it went," said Curry, whose father was childhood friends with Blues owner Tom Stillman. "But just based on my career, I know you don’t get many of these. So it’s good to have success and to play well when you get the chance."
St. Louis dropped its fourth straight and also lost star T.J. Oshie after he was shouldered in the face by Wild enforcer Mike Rupp halfway through a chaotic second period. Rupp was ejected, and Oshie dabbed blood from his mouth as he moved slowly back to the locker room after being down on the ice for 5 minutes.
Rupp was assessed a match penalty for intent to injure. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Oshie is day to day.
"I haven’t seen it because the bench was up. I’ll look at video on the plane," Hitchcock said. "Obviously, Oshie’s out. Like everybody else at this time of year, he’s day to day, but certainly a tough hit to take right now."
Kevin Shattenkirk and Jaden Schwartz scored for the Blues.
Curry, the fifth goalie Minnesota has started against St. Louis in five games, was called up to make his fifth NHL start. The Minnesota native had allowed 22 goals in his previous five games at AHL Iowa, but turned away four early power-play shots and had 17 saves in the first period to establish himself in his first NHL start since Jan. 11, 2010.
"We’ve got to find a way to outwork the goalie, get more traffic," Schwartz said. "There were pucks all around the net, all around him and we just couldn’t find a way to bang it in. We did a good job of getting it there, but we’ve got to find a way to outwork these goalies."
The way Curry was playing, outworking him might not have been an option.
"I’m sure one of those saves is going to be on NHL Tonight," Niederreiter said.
Minnesota led 1-0 after the first on Niederreiter’s 14th goal and was controlling play during the first half of the second.
Then, Rupp, playing for the first time since Feb. 1, knocked Oshie out of the game, and Shattenkirk tied it with a 5-on-3 goal a few seconds later.
Brodziak and Schwartz traded short-handed goals before Matt Moulson buried his 23rd of the season at 17:30 to send the Wild into the second intermission with a 3-2 lead.
It took Brodziak only 58 seconds to extend Minnesota’s lead to 4-2 in the third period with his eighth goal.
"It definitely felt good. But yeah, the whole game felt good," Brodziak said. "Everybody was involved and really focused on what we tried to accomplish, and we got `er done tonight."
Blues goalie Ryan Miller, who had stopped only nine of 13 shots, didn’t leave immediately after Brodziak’s second goal, but skated back to the locker room and was replaced by Brian Elliott at 16:22 of the third.
Miller has allowed four goals in three straight games.
After Brodziak’s first goal, Blues center Steve Ott was given a 10-minute game misconduct penalty for inciting the opponent.
"It’s frustrating. It’s not fun losing," Schwartz said. "These are big, important games for us and it’s a big time of the year. We’re confident in here that we can turn this around and we got two more games to do that."
St. Louis entered the game second in the Western Conference, and there’s a strong chance these teams could meet in the first round of the playoffs.
St. Louis had pushed the Wild around all season, but the momentum appears to be shifting as both teams approach the postseason. In addition to beating the Blues, Minnesota has recently defeated Boston, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles.
"Our confidence has been starting to grow game-by-game just by the way we’re playing, the way we come out every night," Brodziak said. "We’re not getting down."
NOTES: The Blues have been outscored 16-4 during their four-game slide. … Wild D Christian Folin made his NHL debut and recorded an assist. … Oshie hasn’t scored a point since recording a hat trick against Minnesota on March 27.