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.

Best of NHL: Islanders shut down Capitals to snap 5-game skid

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Best of NHL: Islanders shut down Capitals to snap 5-game skid

NEW YORK -- Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves after getting a vote of confidence from his coach, and the New York Islanders beat the Washington Capitals 3-1 on Monday night to snap a five-game winless streak.

Brock Nelson, Andrew Ladd and John Tavares scored goals for the Islanders, who built a 3-0 lead early in the second period and ended Washington's four-game winning streak.

It was the second time this season that Halak held an opponent to a single goal and the third time New York has allowed one goal as a team. Halak's strong performance came after coach Doug Weight sternly defended his goaltenders following the team's skate Monday morning. New York was 0-3-2 over its last five games.

Braden Holtby made nine saves for the Capitals before being pulled after the Islanders scored their third goal 1:34 into the second period. Philipp Grubauer made 17 saves in relief, and Dmitry Orlov scored Washington's only goal (see full recap).

Bernier makes 39 saves as Avalanche top Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- Jonathan Bernier stopped 39 shots and Mark Barberio scored in the third period, helping the Colorado Avalanche top the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 on Monday night.

Blake Comeau added an empty netter against his former team as Colorado won its second straight after a string of six losses in seven games. It was Comeau's seventh of the season.

Barberio put the Avalanche ahead to stay 6:17 into the third. His slap shot off the rush hit Pittsburgh forward Riley Sheahan in front and got past goaltender Tristan Jarry.

Bernier was on track for his second shutout of the season before Phil Kessel scored his 15th goal for Pittsburgh at 19:48. Bernier beat the Penguins for just the second time in 10 career games (see full recap).

Perreault, Jets beat Canucks to snap skid
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Mathieu Perreault scored two goals and added an assist to help the Winnipeg Jets halt a three-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night.

The win was the Jets' seventh straight victory at home and they have points in their last 11 games (10-0-1) at Bell MTS Place.

The Canucks have lost three straight in regulation for the first time this season.

Dmitry Kulikov, Josh Morrissey and Nikolaj Ehlers also scored for Winnipeg (18-8-5). Ehlers' 14th of the season was on the power play and gave him goals in three straight games.

Brock Boeser scored his team-leading 16th goal for the Canucks. He also extended his goal-scoring streak to three games.

Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves for Winnipeg (see full recap).

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Reversing home fortunes

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Reversing home fortunes

VOORHEES, N.J. — Home is where the _____.

For the Flyers, filling in this blank hasn’t solicited positive responses this season.

Of course, the Flyers haven’t provided positive results.

After trouncing the Capitals and Panthers in their first two home games of the season, the Flyers have dropped 10 of their last 12 in South Philly. They gifted the Arizona Coyotes their first win of the season back in late October and have turned in lethargic efforts against the Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins in recent weeks.

More alarmingly, the Flyers have just a 1-2-5 record in one-goal games, a situation in which home ice should come into play as one of the deciding factors. The losing and frustration culminated with a barrage of boos and a “Fire Hakstol” chant during that 3-1 loss to the Sharks on Nov. 28.

“It doesn’t help, but we’re not doing anything to help ourselves,” goaltender Brian Elliott said Monday. “You’re trying not to listen to any crowd. You’re just trying to block it all out and stay in that moment, just playing with your team out there, and that’s probably how I approach it. It’s taking that road style hockey game and bringing it here.” 

“I think the atmosphere will be better,” Sean Couturier said. “When you’re losing, it’s tough. We were trying so hard to get a win. It didn’t seem to come, and then finally to get one, two and then three. We’re kind of on a roll, but at the same time, it’s only three games. We’re pretty excited to be back home and keep winning.”  

Tuesday, the team will be looking to change its Wells Fargo Center fortunes when it opens up another five-game homestand, its longest of the season, beginning with a visit from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Flyers are hopeful they can carry over their success from a three-game sweep in Western Canada when the Leafs hit town. 

“We keep it simple on the road. We went on the road and made a pact to keep it simple and play the right way,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We’ve had one of the best home records over the past three years. I think we do alright at home. Obviously, we’ve had a slow start at home, but we’ll pick it up.”

Not that the previous 14 home games have been irrelevant, but the final 27 games on home ice will have a much greater emphasis as 23 of their final 28 games come against Eastern Conference opponents, with 12 of those directly within the Metropolitan Division.

“From now on, games are going to get more and more important,” Couturier said. “Every point is pretty much necessary for us, especially when you lose 10 games in a row. You get behind in the standings and you’re chasing. We've got to stick together and get some more wins.”

'Ghost' feels for Wentz
Shayne Gostisbehere knows what it's like to wake up the way Carson Wentz did on Monday morning.

Wentz tore the ACL in his left knee during Sunday’s 43-35 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. 

In November 2014, Gostisbehere tore the same ACL in his knee during his rookie season with the Phantoms just five games in and never returned to action. Faced with months of rehab, there were moments when "Ghost" didn’t feel as if the injury was improving.   

“I saw the game yesterday,” Gostisbehere said. “I hope for the best for him. The rehab is really grueling. It's ups and downs. Some days you’re going to feel great, feel like you’re getting ahead of the game, and other days you feel you’re never going to get better. I think overall he’s going to have the best care in the world. I think obviously you hope for the best and hope it’s not that bad.”

Elliott named third star
Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott was named the NHL’s third star of the week after posting three road wins with a 1.67 goals-against average and .954 save percentage.

“It’s great when you get recognized,” Elliott said. “Whenever you get those recognitions as a goalie, it really shows how the group has been playing, especially this last week here. It’s probably my name up there, but definitely the whole team deserves that.”