ST. PAUL, Minn. – If you like pitcher’s duels in baseball, or nil-nil soccer matches or the three-yards-and-a-cloud of dust approach to football, then Monday’s game between the Flyers and Minnesota Wild was for you.
It was a true defensive struggle. There was very little room, very few chances, and really, not a ton of mistakes.
Back and forth it went for more than two periods without a goal. Heck, the shot totals were so low that actual scoring chances could be counted on one hand – for both teams.
But then the Wild got a fortunate carom and 57 seconds later a juicy rebound and that, as they say, was that.
|There was very little room for the Flyers to operate on the ice in Minnesota, and that stuggle amounted to a 2nd place finiah. |
The Flyers lost 2-0 at Xcel Energy Center. Their two game winning streak, vanished. Their offense, nonexistent. Their chance at moving into a playoff position for the first time this season, also up in smoke.
And yet, they felt like they played a pretty strong game.
“It was a tight game and we expected that,” coach Craig Berube said. “They’re a stingy team over there and play good defense. I knew from the get go it was going to be a tight game and we had to be patient… I thought we played good defense tonight and checked hard, but they got that one play and got the goal.”
The one play Berube was talking about was an attempt at a wrap-around pass from Mikko Koivu out front to a crashing Jason Pominville. Koivu’s pass banked off the curvurture of the net near the post and shot directly onto the blade of Pominville for an easy goal.
“If that was by design, then hats off to him,” Flyers goalie Ray Emery said. “It was just one of those plays were it came off the side of the net and it took me a second to realize it got over there to [Pominville] because of the funny angle the way the net is curved.
“It’s frustrating because they got two quick ones and we played well after that trying to come back. It was only a couple of minutes there but that’s all it takes for a team that is that defensive.”
The Flyers finished with 21 shots, all of which Wild goalie Josh Harding stopped, but 11 of those shots came in the third period, most of them after they were down two goals, and that total was more than the 10 they had combined in the first two periods.
“We had a couple posts too, but there were a couple shots where the goalie made a good save,” said Claude Giroux. “Obviously we need to generate more offense, but they’re a pretty good team that has a lot of composure with the puck.
“I think this was a pretty good test for us to play against this team – I think we played a good game defensively.”
That they did. Aside from the unfortunate carom on the first goal, a lost board battle by Matt Read to Marco Scandella set up a slap shot from Jared Spurgeon that Emery stopped, but the rebound went right to Charlie Coyle for an easy tap-in goal at 2-0.
The Flyers finally were able to start to generate offense on their power play, which didn’t see the ice until 7:48 of the third period when Coyle was called for slashing.
Giroux caught iron with one shot and Jake Voracek had an entire net to shoot at only to be thwarted by a desperate, diving stop by Harding.
“It’s got to go in,” Voracek said. “There’s no reason for me not to score from there. Obviously it was a tough one. I think as the game went on we started to pick it up and we got chances, we just couldn’t score.”
Voracek has been especially snake bitten to this point this season, missing on several chances over the course of the 27 games played thus far.
“With me, you never know,” he said. “It’s been unbelievable this year. I’ve had so many chances but I ‘ve hit a few posts and the goalies have made good saves.
“Last year everything went in and under the bar. This year, I’m thinking too much when I get chances and then something happens. [Tonight] it was a great save by Harding.”
Berube pulled Emery with 3:22 to play to try and generate a comeback push, but while the chances were there, they never were able to capitalize on them.
“You’re not going to get a lot of chances against them. I thought that was a perfect time because we had a faceoff down [in their end] and our top line was rested. It was a gut [feeling].”
Yet, it didn’t turn out in favor of the Flyers, who now continue their road trip Wednesday in Detroit against a white-hot Red Wings team.
“It’s the same story at the beginning of the year,” Giroux said of the lack of offense. “We have to get more pucks to the front of the net and have more traffic and the pucks will go in.”
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