Wild (7-7-1) 1, Flyers (8-7-2) 0
From almost puck drop, it seemed like one goal would be all it would take in the Philadelphia Flyers’ game against the Minnesota Wild Saturday night. Minnesota’s Jason Zucker ended up being the one that clinched the victory, scoring the lone goal in the Wild’s 1-0 win. It was the Las Vegas native’s sixth consecutive goal for Minnesota.
It was obvious from the get-go that both teams had game-planned for the other. The Wild shut down the middle of the ice, specifically against the Flyers’ first line, and Philadelphia kept Minnesota from below its defensive hashmarks.
The Flyers had more success, leading in the shot department 12-5 and held the Wild to no shots for a nine-minute stretch. However, neither team found the back of the net in the first stanza.
Despite the lack of shots, Minnesota had the best chance of the period when Mikko Koivu was sent on a shorthanded breakaway. The Finn waited out Brian Elliott making a move to the left and a mostly wide-open look at the net.
Elliott extended his stick, though, to paddle away a would-be goal on his best save of the season so far.
The Flyers had some decent offensive chances, but nothing similar to that. Their best chance may have came on a cross-ice pass to Wayne Simmonds from Travis Konecny that Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk was able to track for one of his 12 first-period saves.
The offensive floodgates opened in the second period, but the scoring ones stayed close. Both goalies stayed perfect as the Flyers and Wild put up 11 and nine shots, respectively.
In the first half of the stanza, the Wild controlled most of the play, but Elliott continued his strong night. Jason Zucker had a power play chance as he came speeding down the left side, Nino Niederreiter snapped off a wrist shot on a 3-on-1 and the best chance came later when Marcus Foligno powered his way to the front of the net coming down the right side.
Elliott stood up to all of them and in the second half, the Flyers started to get their chances. Sean Couturier and Michael Raffl both had chances off rebounds directly in front of Dubnyk, but just like Elliott, the former Oiler shut the door.
Who else could it have been to score for the Wild besides Zucker? Going into the game, the left-winger had scored five straight goals for his team. Just over a minute into the third period, he made it six by banking the puck off Elliott’s blocker behind the net.
With a lead, the Wild sunk into a defensive mode, giving the Flyers less than they saw in the second period. That’s despite a power play chance for Philadelphia about four minutes after the goal.
The Flyers didn’t have much luck there or for the rest of the stanza. It wasn’t until Elliott was pulled with 1:25 left that the team put together some dangerous offensive pressure. Philly’s best chance came with just five seconds left when a scrum in front gave Voracek a great chance to stuff home a tying goal. Dubnyk made the save look easy, though, gloving the shot.
Elliott took a loss in the game and may have been outplayed by his counterpart in Dubnyk, but the former Blue had an impressive outing for the second straight contest. The game could have been more in favor of the WIld, but Elliott made some key saves and none bigger than the one on Koivu in the first period. After some shaky starts, the Flyers have to be enthused about their veteran netminder’s play.
A lack of offensive depth in the Philadelphia lineup was on full display Saturday night. The first line was good for a chance or two every time it was on the ice and the fourth line controlled play a good amount also, but the middle six was a disappointment. Travis Konecny had some chances, but more is needed from Wayne Simmonds, Jordan Weal and Valterri Filppula. The Flyers seem to be inching closer to a one-line team.
Ivan Provorov and Robert Hagg had another unspectacular, but very solid night that went mostly unnoticed on the scoresheet. Hagg had four shots and six hits and Provorov played over 23 minutes, but it was their defensive play that won’t be shown so easily. Provorov played a 3-on-1 perfectly so that all was accomplished was an easy wrister for Elliott and Hagg continues to use his body effectively to force opponents to the outside.
Flyers at Wild
Tuesday, 11-14-17, 8 P.M.