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Zucker's late goal lifts Wild past Flyers

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo said after the morning skate Thursday that he would try Charlie Coyle at center between left wing Thomas Vanek and right wing Jason Zucker in a quest to find more offense on the road.

The move proved to be a good one.

Zucker scored in the final minute of the third period to lift the Wild to a 3-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.

A strong forecheck deep in the Philadelphia zone by Coyle and Zucker led to the puck being cycled out to the point to Vanek, who sent it to defenseman Ryan Suter. When Suter tried moving it to Coyle behind the net, the puck bounced off the wall and came back to Suter. With all eyes on Suter, the defenseman threw a pass through the slot to Zucker, who stuffed it inside the right post with 45.4 seconds left in regulation.

The goal was Zucker's sixth, his first in 11 games.

"I was just trying to get in on the forecheck, gave it back to [Suter]," Zucker said. "I thought he was coming down the wall, but knowing that guy, he's always doing something better than most guys. He made a nice play to [Vanek], went back to [Suter], and I just tried to get to the net, and he made an unbelievable pass."

Marco Scandella and Nino Niederreiter each had one goal and one assist, and Darcy Kuemper stopped 37 shots. The Wild started a three-game road trip with their fourth straight win.

Wild captain Mikko Koivu played one shift in the third period. Yeo said Koivu had flu-like symptoms but they didn't appear to be mumps-related because Koivu did not have swollen glands.

Mark Streit and Claude Giroux scored for the Flyers, and goaltender Ray Emery allowed three goals on 29 shots. The loss was Philadelphia's fourth straight.

Flyers forward Chris VandeVelde played one shift in the third period because of a lower-body injury and is day-to-day.

Giroux's power-play goal with 3:30 left in the third period appeared to have the Flyers headed to overtime with at least one point. Instead it was the Wild's newest line that made the difference in the game.

"I thought Charlie had a really good game, really strong game for us," Yeo said. "Both ends of the ice, faceoffs. ... For those guys, we needed someone to make a play, and those guys found a way to get it done."

Zucker credited his new linemates for allowing him to be in position for the winner.

"I thought both guys played great," Zucker said. "Those two guys are great players and they've proved that for a while now. [Vanek] is such a smart player, and Charlie battles hard, he makes a lot of great plays. It's nice to be playing with two guys like that."

The Flyers felt it was more their mistakes that led to them losing Thursday.

"MacDonald had the puck turned back into the play when he should have kept it going up, so then the play was in our end and Luke Schenn just lost his man going to the net," Flyers coach Craig Berube said.

The Wild took a 2-1 lead 1:42 into the third on Scandella's goal, but the Flyers came back to tie it late on a broken play -- literally.

With the Flyers skating on a power play, Giroux fired a shot from the left side that broke the skate protector covering Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon's left skate. The hard plastic shell fell under the blade of Spurgeon's skate and he couldn't get it off. When the Flyers worked the puck back around to Giroux, Spurgeon was unable to get into position to block the shot.

Moments later, though, the Wild stole back the momentum.

"It's a tough way to lose," Giroux said. "We played the right way all game and gave ourselves a chance to win."

After a scoreless first period, Niederreiter's power-play goal at 10:59 of the second opened the scoring.

It was the Wild's first power-play goal on the road this season, on their 33rd attempt. It also was the eighth power-play goal allowed by the Flyers in their past four games, in 16 times shorthanded.

The Flyers tied the game with 5:29 left in the second when Streit pinched into the offensive zone and finished a pass from Vincent Lecavalier to make it 1-1.

"We were on the forecheck and [Simmonds] got the puck on the half wall and made a great pass to Vinny," Streit said. "He saw me jumping into the play. I tried to deke the goalie and go five-hole and luckily enough the puck went in."

The Flyers outshot the Wild 39-29, including 16-12 in the final period, but Kuemper was sharp and the Wild blocked 24 shots.

"There were more ebbs than flows for the first 40 minutes," Yeo said. "I thought we were defending hard, we were blocking shots, guys were willing to pay the price. But I really felt we were playing not to lose that hockey game for the first 20. I like the way our guys came out in the third period and we really got after it. Really like what Darcy did tonight. ... He was good. And we're going to make sure he's ready to be good for the next one too."

The Wild next play Saturday at the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Despite the loss the Flyers felt good about their effort one night after they lost 2-0 at the New York Rangers and general manager Ron Hextall berated the players in the locker room after the game.

"We played well," Berube said. "I thought we played well most of the game. We made two mistakes in the third period that we shouldn't have made, and it cost us two goals. ... If we played like that, we would win a lot of hockey games and that has to be the focus. It wasn't good enough, and we lost, but you know that's the way you have to play. That's the competitiveness we are looking for, the skating, the team play, that's what we are looking for. If we can consistently do that we will win our fair share of games and be right there where we want to be."


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