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.