Silent night from top line dooms Flyers in shutout loss to Wild

Silent night from top line dooms Flyers in shutout loss to Wild


Keep the Flyers' potent top line off the scoresheet and there is a good chance you'll keep the entire team off the scoreboard.

That proved to be the case for the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night, as they relied once again on the two hottest players in the NHL to beat the Flyers, 1-0, at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

"Yeah, it's a really boring game they play," Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. "It's just a sit-back system. Those are the type of teams that you are going to run into. You have to adjust and make plays in a different way."

Wild netminder Devan Dubnyk stopped all 32 shots he faced for his second consecutive shutout while increasing his shutout streak to 136 minutes and 20 seconds. Jason Zucker scored the game's lone goal. Zucker has been Minnesota's only goal scorer over the past three games, amazingly scoring all six of the Wild's goals.

"I have no idea," Zucker said when asked how he scored his goal. "Honestly, it was an empty net and it had a lot of spin off the board. It went onto my stick and kind of just shot off. It was just a lucky bounce."

Wild defenseman Matt Dumba's shot deflected and then ricocheted off the boards behind the net right onto Zucker's stick.

“You’re just trying to get over there and cover, and it just went off me a weird angle and went in, Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott said. “It’s not something you want, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles I guess.”

Coming into the game, the Flyers knew Minnesota’s style would force them to grind away in front of the net and find a means to manufacture what is often described as a “greasy” goal requiring blue-collar effort. The Flyers found ways to get shots through traffic in the first period, but they couldn’t find those open lanes over the final 20 minutes, as the Wild blocked 11 shots in the third period alone.

“We didn’t finish on one. It was one of those nights where it wasn’t going to be easy to score,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We couldn’t find a rebound or a puck around the net to finish one of those. That’s kind of the way the night was both directions.”

Aside from the top line, the Flyers' fourth line of Taylor Leier, Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl was arguably the only other line that generated any sustained offensive pressure, and much of their work also revolved around containing the Wild’s top line of Tyler Ennis, Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund.

Minnesota’s defense also protected Dubnyk in front of the crease, taking away the cross-ice pass and jammed up any open space. Credit much of that to shutdown defenseman Ryan Suter, who was on the ice for over 11 minutes in the final period.

“We had some really good sticks tonight,” Dubnyk said. “It felt Suets (Suter) was just eating pucks left and right.”

“I wouldn’t say it was a tough night,” said Sean Couturier, who had a team-high six shots. “I thought it was a grind out there. The shooting lanes are hard to find, so at first, you have to create that lane and then go to the net. It was a battle.”

The Flyers have now been shut out four times in their first 17 games, an NHL high, and all against Western Conference opponents. While there hasn’t been one proven formula for the opposition, it has to be concerning for the Flyers that when the Claude Giroux-Couturier-Jakub Voracek combination is held in check, there hasn’t been another line capable of stepping up and delivering lately.

Here are some of the droughts of the Flyers' skilled forwards:

Wayne Simmonds — 0 goals in his last nine games.

Travis Konecny — 1 goal in his last 13 games.

Jordan Weal — 1 goal over his last 14 games.

On the related topic of scoring, general manager Ron Hextall seemed to be the only concerned party.

"It's something we need to get better at, we've discussed it," Hextall said before the game. "Those guys you're referring to, we have a lot of good players there.

"For whatever reason, the chemistry just hasn't been there. They haven't been getting a ton of breaks, so hopefully, they can break through. We need more scoring from other parts and lines other than Couturier's line."

"Something has to break," Simmonds said. "So we have to work a little bit harder and a little bit smarter and hopefully, we get it going on Tuesday."

And the Flyers can only hope the end result is a little bit better Tuesday in Minnesota.

Doing what he does best, Oskar Lindblom catching fire

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Doing what he does best, Oskar Lindblom catching fire

Before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers' prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 21, 6-1/192, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Flyers fans can't wait to see this at the NHL level.

Last weekend, Lindblom potted a goal in three straight games for the Phantoms, giving him 16 on the season through 54 contests. All three tallies came within close range as the Swedish winger's scoring IQ continues to grow during his first AHL season.

Since going scoreless in his first six games, the 2014 fifth-round pick hasn't gone more than four straight games without a point.

Lindblom surprised many with his vast development leading up to the 2017-18 season. While some were disappointed he didn't make the Flyers' roster out of training camp, a 20-goal campaign at Lehigh Valley will be a nice accomplishment along his path to Philly.

Travis Sanheim, D, 21, 6-4/199, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Just how much of a difference-maker is Sanheim? The Phantoms are 9-1-2 since the 2014 first-round pick joined them after he was sent down by the Flyers.

Over Lehigh Valley's 3-0-1 week, Sanheim extended his point streak to seven games with five more assists, putting him at 12 helpers in as many games.

Seeing plenty of minutes and responsibility, Sanheim has collected 13 points to go with a plus-11 rating.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel, RW, 21, 5-11/187, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Aube-Kubel is another Phantom worth noting here.

The 2014 second-round pick put up five points (one goal, four assists) in four games last week, continuing his surge in Year 2 of his AHL development. He now has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in his last 12 games.

After a feeling-out process last season, Aube-Kubel is coming on strong in 2017-18, as he's a plus-20 and third on Lehigh Valley with 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists).

Quick hits
• Ho-hum for Morgan Frost, who had a six-point week through three games. At 94 points, Frost is six away from 100, while his plus-54 rating remains best in the OHL.

Here's a glimpse into his vision and skill:

• Goalie Carter Hart picked up a win and a shootout loss over the weekend. In total, he made 60 saves on 65 shots.

Maksim Sushko tallied two goals (including this one below) and two assists through three games last week. A 2017 fourth-round pick, the 19-year-old has 48 points in 47 games for Owen Sound.

• Wingers Isaac Ratcliffe and Matthew Strome, also 2017 draft picks, recorded three points each in a pair of games.

• Playing for the first time since Jan. 31, German Rubtsov returned from an undisclosed injury to notch an assist over three games last week. The Flyers' 2016 first-round pick has 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 27 games for Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

• In Michigan's two-game sweep of top-ranked Notre Dame, Cooper Marody tacked on three more assists, giving 26 overall, which is tied for most in the Big Ten.

Here's his primary helper from Sunday's 1-0 win:

Anthony Salinitri pushed his point streak to seven games with an assist Friday and a goal Saturday. The 2016 sixth-round pick has 25 goals and 25 assists in 56 games.

• During the four-game week for the Phantoms, Mike Vecchione scored his 12th and 13th goals of the season, while adding an assist.

Philippe Myers had an assist Tuesday for his first point since Jan. 26, while Samuel Morin (undisclosed injury), who hasn't played since Jan. 20, remains out.

Hall's late OT goal helps Devils keep pace with Flyers

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Hall's late OT goal helps Devils keep pace with Flyers

RALEIGH, N.C. — Taylor Hall scored on a rebound with 22 seconds left in overtime, giving the New Jersey Devils a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

The goal extended Hall's league-best streak of games with a point to 18.

New Jersey had won the first of the teams' four meetings this season on Thursday night to start the Hurricanes' three-game losing streak.

Keith Kinkaid stopped 40 shots for the Devils.

The Devils led 1-0 after a first period in which the Hurricanes outshot them 13-9.

Nico Hischier scored New Jersey's first goal on a power play midway through the first, assisted by Sami Vatanen and Kinkaid (see full recap).

Matthews scores in final minute to give Maple Leafs win over Red Wings
DETROIT — To Jeff Blashill, the outcome came down to one simple fact.

"They made one more play than us," the Detroit coach Blashill said.

To Toronto center Auston Matthews, it came down to persistence.

"We've got a lot of chances the last couple of games," Matthews said. "We had some pretty good chances tonight, the puck just wouldn't go in.

"It was nice to finally finish it off there with a half a minute left."

Matthews scored with 30.2 seconds left to give the Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Red Wings on Sunday night.

James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner also scored for Toronto, and Curtis McElhinney made 27 saves (see full recap).

McDavid notches 3rd hat trick of season in Oilers' victory vs. Avalanche
DENVER — Late in the second period, with his team outplaying Colorado, Edmonton coach Todd McLellan couldn't believe his Oilers were trailing 2-1.

"Jay Woodcroft and I looked at each other and said, `How are we losing this game?'" McLellan said.

They didn't, thanks to another big game by Connor McDavid.

McDavid had his third hat trick of the season and fourth of his career, and the Oilers beat the Avalanche 4-2 on Sunday to snap a six-game losing streak.

McDavid now has 11 goals in the last nine games and two hat tricks. His first two goals tied the game, and his last one was into an empty net with 1:26 remaining (see full recap).

Sheahan scores twice in Penguins' win over Blue Jackets 
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Riley Sheahan scored two goals in the first period, rookie Tristan Jarry had 35 saves and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Sunday night.

Jake Guentzel had a goal and two assists, and Brian Dumoulin and Zach Aston-Reese also scored for the Penguins. They have won five straight and 10 of their last 12. The win in front of a sellout crowd at Nationwide Arena moved them past Washington into first place in the Metropolitan Division.

The 22-year-old Jarry played well standing in for starter Matt Murray, who got a rest as Pittsburgh played the second leg of a back-to-back and its third game in four days. It was Jarry's first NHL action in a month after going 3-0 in three starts for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL.

Artemi Panarin and Alexander Wennberg scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 18 shots for the Blue Jackets. They have lost two straight and seven of the last nine. In what is becoming the norm lately, Columbus outshot its opponent (37-23) but couldn't score enough to win. The Blue Jackets lead the NHL in shots per game but are lingering near the bottom of the division (see full recap)