(photo credit: Frank Fimmano)
With all hopes of a playoff run in dire jeopardy, the Flyers escaped by the blade of a goalie stick as Michal Neuvirth made the save of the season to secure a much, much needed 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild.
As the game’s waning seconds ticked away, it appeared the regulation win and perhaps two points were stolen as Charlie Coyle fired a puck into what appeared to be a wide open net for the backbreaking tying goal. But as the Wild players raised their arms in celebration, the referee signaled no goal as the entire building was stunned and emphatic at the same time. As the review confirmed the no goal, the Wells Fargo Center erupted as the Flyers got their biggest win of the season.
The first period opened with the Flyers thoroughly dominating possession, controlling the neutral zone and for the most part keeping the Wild pinned in their zone. Despite these efforts, the home team nearly gave up the lead twice but were bailed out by some puck luck and suave netminder from Neuvirth.
After killing a Wild power play, the orange and black would continue their dominance at even strength. Finally the persistence paid off as Sam Gagner fired home a rebound after a scrum in front to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead at the 15:42 mark. The Flyers out attempted the Wild 31-11 in the period at even strength, and 14-11 overall in shots.
A common theme for the Flyers has been relinquishing early leads as of late and once again it reared its ugly head. After a Mark Streit interference penalty in the period’s first minute, Thomas Vanek tied it on a pretty redirect from the slot. Streit would make up for his penalty soon enough, firing home it home from the left circle to regain the lead 2-1.
But much like the game before in Carolina, possession dominance does not always equate to output. Minnesota again would tie the score after a loose rebound and defensive breakdown in front of Neuvirth leads to a backhand put back from Mikael Granlund midway through the period.
The script was looking very familiar as the team’s entered the final period, which was not good news in the Flyers case.
Just as it felt the game was going to get away from the Flyers, the complete opposite happens. After some strong pressure from the fourth line keeps the puck deep, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare dives for a loose rebound in front and is able to lift it over Dubnyk’s should to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead.
Minnesota appeared to have a chance to pull their goalie with just under two minutes remaining but despite showed some sustained pressure and keeping the puck in the Flyers zone, failed to called Dubnyk to the bench. He finally would be pulled with about 50 seconds left in regulation, setting the stage for Neuvirth’s heroics in the final seconds.
The Flyers not only picked up two points to help their own cause, but both Carolina and New Jersey lost in regulation, closing the gap to within a point and two points respectfully.
Neuvirth Says No
Asides from the obvious save of the year, Neuvirth was really strong in net for the Flyers tonight and made some big saves early and late. He was given the start surprisingly after a lackluster performance the other night in Carolina and made the most of it. He’s now 14-7-4 with a .927 save percentage and a 2.20 GAA and really has been steady as Steve Mason has battled injuries and inconsistency.
The Flyers have been really on the rise with their possession game as of late and have now dominated their last two outings. Philadelphia out attempted Minnesota 53-38 on even strength and again controlled the zones pretty well. There is a definite improvement with the passing and forecheck as it allows for sustained pressure. The top line looked very strong as the norm and even Andrew Macdonald was a +7 Corsi on the night.
Wheelin and Dealin’
Despite the Flyers still somewhat in the playoff race, common sense shows that the postseason isn’t likely with the number of teams they’d have to jump. That being said, they have been rumored to be looking to deal defenseman Radko Gudas and Mark Streit, as well as forward Sam Gagne. But the real intriguing detail to drop was their potential interest in maligned Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin. A former top-three pick, his upside and talent could have him become a top flight winger. But despite Tampa Bay’s intentions to move him, Drouin will cost a steep price. How much are the Flyers willing to sacrifice to make that move? All conversations likely start with one of their big four defensive prospects, a roster player and a high draft pick. Should be an interesting deadline as always.
Oh yeah, Tommy Wingels.