Flyers

Flyers' scoreless streak extended with another Wild shutout

Flyers' scoreless streak extended with another Wild shutout

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL, Minn. — If you despised the original, then you certainly gave the sequel two thumbs down in the Flyers’ home-and-home series with the Minnesota Wild.

In a matchup of last-place teams in their respective divisions, the Flyers were jumped on from the game’s opening shift in a 3-0 loss to the Wild on Tuesday night (see observations). Minnesota scored 12 seconds into the game and added a pair of empty-netters to seal the shutout at Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota netminder Devan Dubnyk was a perfect 62 of 62 in save opportunities in the past two games against the Flyers. Meanwhile, the orange and black’s scoreless streak stretched back to last Thursday’s game against the Blackhawks when Sean Couturier scored the Flyers’ last goal at 3:51 of the second period. 

When the Flyers hit the ice Thursday in Winnipeg, they’ll be staring at a scoring drought of 156 minutes, nine seconds … and ticking. 

“Sometimes when it rains it pours when you can’t score, and it’s pouring on us a little bit right now,” goaltender Brian Elliott said.

Sure, the Flyers are outplaying the opposition. They limited the Wild to just 18 shots prior to the two empty-net goals. However, they’ve also squandered some excellent goaltending from Elliott, who hasn’t allowed more than two goals in each of his last four starts. Elliott’s only hiccup came in the first 12 seconds of the game when Nino Niederreiter one-timed a shot over the goalie on a pass from Eric Staal. 

“We can’t get scored on like that early, first shift of the game. Caught us a little asleep to start,” Elliott said. “First forecheck they create a chance like that, and then we’re fighting from behind and you don’t want to do that ever. Luckily, we have a game in a couple of nights and a chance to redeem ourselves.”

Finding the back of the net right now appears to be a monumental challenge. Dale Weise had arguably the best opportunity of the night with 12 minutes remaining in regulation when he snuck in behind Minnesota’s defense for a clear breakaway on Dubnyk. Weise attempted a quick wrist shot in an attempt to sneak one between Dubnyk’s legs but he was denied (see highlights).

“Yeah, I was just trying a quick shot,” Weise said. “He’s such a big guy. There’s a little more room five-hole on a big guy like that. He was quite a ways out of the net, so I was just trying to freeze him.”

Coming into the game, the Flyers expressed a desire to create more traffic in front of Dubnyk and the officials allowed both teams to bang away down in the trenches. The teams were whistled for a combined three penalties with the Flyers’ only minor being handed to Wayne Simmonds for an early hooking call.

“They do such a good job of defending. They box out so well,” Weise said. “You really can’t get second chances. It’s kind of like 1997 all over again with the obstruction in front of their net. There’s just no penalties called. It’s frustrating where you can’t get any second whacks there. I’ve had three penalties where I haven’t touched the guy, and [tonight] it’s World War III in front of their net.” 

“You’ve got to keep a real strong mental mindset,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “For us, you’ve got to look at yourself and look at little ways where you can stay that extra second in your real estate at the top of the blue paint, take the goaltenders eyes away a little bit more. That’s not to say our guys weren’t working hard at it tonight.” 

The Flyers have also had some major issues against Western Conference opponents. In their last 25 games dating back to Dec. 30 of last year, the Flyers are 9-12-4 against the West and have been shut out in eight of those contests.

The Flyers also can’t rely on their power play. Over the last 12 games, that unit collectively has gone 4 for 35. That’s an 11.4 percent success rate of with an average of just 2.91 opportunities per game.

Right now, Hakstol’s club could use anything or anyone to score a goal. The timing couldn’t be more ideal for a Nolan Patrick return.

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

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Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pekka Rinne made 33 saves in his 300th career win and the Nashville Predators routed the San Jose Sharks 7-1 on Thursday night.

Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist, and Scott Hartnell, Kevin Fiala and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville, which has won three straight. The Predators moved within one point of expansion Vegas for the Western Conference lead.

Nashville defensemen Roman Josi and P.K. Subban each had two assists.

All of Rinne's wins have come with Nashville. He tied former Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun for 33rd place in NHL history.

Logan Couture had the San Jose goal. The loss snapped the Sharks' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Wild use big 2nd period to top Devils
NEWARK, N.J. -- Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored in a 39-second span during Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild rallied from two down to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Thursday night.

Wild defenseman Mike Reilly also scored in the second period and Eric Staal iced the game with an empty-net goal, his 900th NHL point. Backup goalie Alex Stalock made 38 saves as the Wild moved into third place in the Central Division after winning for the 11th time in 17 games (11-3-3).

Taylor Hall and Stefan Noesen scored for the Devils, who have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak. Eddie Lack made 21 saves.

Hall's 13-game point streak is the longest in NHL this season, one more than David Pastrnak of Boston.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau made the right moves in this one, inserting Reilly and Stewart into the lineup and electing to give No. 1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk a night off (see full recap).

Matthews exits Maple Leafs’ SO victory with injury
TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak scored the shootout winner and the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the New York Islanders 4-3 on Thursday night.

Auston Matthews tipped in Jake Gardiner's shot to tie it 3-all with 3:29 remaining in the third period, but later left the game favoring his right side after taking a hit from Cal Clutterbuck and did not return. The 20-year-old Toronto star missed six games in December with a concussion and another four games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly had the other Maple Leafs goals, and Frederik Andersen made 32 saves. Toronto (38-20-5) has won eight straight at home.

Ryan Pulock, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle scored for the Islanders (29-26-7), and Jaroslav Halak turned aside 28 shots. New York, one point out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, dropped to 4-6-2 since the All-Star break and 13-15-3 on the road this season.

With his three points, Barzal has a team-leading 65 and a 14-point lead over Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL's rookie scoring race (see full recap).

Here comes Nolan Patrick, just in time for Flyers

Here comes Nolan Patrick, just in time for Flyers

BOX SCORE

When Dave Hakstol was hired on May 18, 2015, to become the 19th head coach of the Flyers, there was an underlying belief that given his collegiate pedigree, Hakstol was the perfect bench boss to handle the team's homegrown prospects.

However, as we’ve seen over the course of three seasons, the progression of a young player doesn’t always continue on an upward trajectory from the moment they start their NHL career.

As he juggles a roster that is now the youngest in the Eastern Conference following injuries to Brian Elliott and Wayne Simmonds, Hakstol appears to be pushing all of the right buttons, including those connected with the organization’s most prized prospect, Nolan Patrick.

Thursday night’s 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets further exemplified that as Patrick scored a power-play goal in his second straight game (see observations). With the injury to Simmonds, Hakstol believed Patrick could slide seamlessly into Simmonds' net-front role on the top unit, and the rookie has yet to disappoint his coach or teammates.

“I think there’s a little less pressure,” Patrick said. “You don’t have the puck on your stick as much. I think my shots are something I need to improve on. It’s kind of nice for me to be there and not try and beat goalies with my shots. I like it there.”

Hakstol recognized early in the opening month of the season that Patrick wasn’t quite ready to handle the role of being a top-six forward, but over the course of an 82-game season, he has gradually given the 19-year-old center more responsibility and Patrick has proved he’s deserving of the coach’s trust.

“His approach, his hockey sense and his intelligence is what gives him an opportunity to be successful in any situation,” Hakstol said. “Each time we’ve been able to give him more of an opportunity, he’s taken advantage of that. Nolan is doing a lot of those little things on a nightly basis — up and down the middle of the rink, playing a good 200-foot game, and the fact he’s taken pride in that is the foundation of his game.”

“He’s been great,” Patrick said of Hakstol. “When I first got here, they made me work for everything. They didn’t put me in situations I wasn’t ready for. Even now, when I’m not playing great, he does what’s best for the team. He’ll hold me back or not put me out there when I’m struggling on faceoffs. He notices that and he’s been huge for me.”

And Patrick has been huge for the Flyers. He’s now scored a goal in three straight games. 

You’re never quite sure when the future will eventually catch up to the present, but with the help of his head coach, it’s coming at just the right time for Nolan Patrick.