Flyers Notes: Quick strikes doom Flyers in defeat

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Flyers Notes: Quick strikes doom Flyers in defeat

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Through more than 40 minutes of play at Xcel Energy Center, almost nothing of consequence happened.

“That’s their game plan -- limit chances against,” goalie Ray Emery said. “It’s a New Jersey type of game where you have to stay patient with them and not give them anything.”

And when you least expect it, bam! Something happens to startle the building and it becomes an instant turning point.

Two Wild goals 57 seconds apart in the final period was all it took (see story) and it began with a spectacular play from Mikko Koivu, who threw a blind pass into the slot for Jason Pominville to finish.

“I thought it was by design,” Emery admitted. “But I talked to him and it was one of those things where [the puck] hit the side of the net and it took me a second to realize it got over there because it hit that funny angle.”

Said Koivu, “I got the puck and I had good speed down the wall. I wasn't sure if it was Pommer or Zach [Parise] in front, so I just tried to get it on tape and I did.

“Great shot going up high and buried. It was pretty tight for him, too. Good shot.”

That made it 1-0 at 3:52 and then Charlie Coyle killed the Flyers off right after to ice it, at 2-0.

“Frustrating that they get two quick ones in the third,” Emery said. “We played well after that to get back from it. But that’s all it takes for a team like that, which is so defensive.”

Flyers coach Craig Berube said he had no problem matching the Wild’s defensive slant on the game and admitted he sensed all it would take was one big play -- like Koivu’s -- to change the game.

“Definitely, they’re a tight team. We played good defense, checked hard. They got the play there and got the goal.”

If you’re keeping score, that’s 21 of 27 games for the Flyers in which they scored two goals or fewer.

Shutout
This was the first shutout to the Wild since February 2003, when they blanked the Flyers in two games -- Feb. 10 and Feb. 12 of that year.

Loose pucks
• Claude Giroux was 15 for 23 (68 percent) on faceoffs, including a perfect 8 for 8 in the first period.

• Adam Hall was 83 percent in the circle, winning 5 of 6.

• Scott Hartnell -- not Zac Rinaldo -- led the team with five hits. Rinaldo had two.

• The Wild are now 9-3-2 against the Eastern Conference.

• This was first game in St. Paul between these two clubs since Nov. 24, 2010 -- a span of 1,104 days.

• The Flyers are 3-4-1 against the Western Conference. They are 2-1-1 against the Central Division.

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello scored twice in the second period and the New York Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6 on Saturday night to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Derek Stepan also scored and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots to help New York get past the first round for the fifth time in six years. The Rangers won three straight after falling behind 2-1 to beat Montreal for the ninth time in 16 postseason series.

The Rangers will face the winner of the Ottawa-Boston series, which the Senators lead 3-2.

Alexei Emelin scored for Montreal and Carey Price finished with 20 saves. The Canadiens, winners of the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs last year, were bounced from the postseason by the Rangers for the second time in four years. In 2014, it was in the conference finals (see full recap).

Paajarvi's OT goal gives Blues 4-3 win to oust Wild in 5
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Magnus Paajarvi scored at the 9:42 mark in overtime, giving the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday in Game 5 of their playoff series, eliminating the Wild.

The Blues advanced to play Nashville in the second round.

Jake Allen made 34 saves for the Blues, who led 2-0 and 3-1 before a furious rally by the Wild to try to keep their season alive forced the extra frame.

Paajarvi's first career playoff goal gave Blues coach Mike Yeo the satisfaction of beating the team that fired him a little over a year ago.

Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker scored to bring the Wild back from their second two-goal hole, a deficit that held past the midpoint of the third period (see full recap).

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

As the Flyers packed up for the offseason much earlier than they had hoped, the focus started shifting to the outlook for 2017-18.

There was some optimism provided by Valtteri Filppula.

It wasn't anything he said. Instead, it was what he did in 20 games.

Make that a full sample size and the Flyers are excited about the possibilities.

Filppula, a well-rounded, 33-year-old center, was acquired at the March 1 trade deadline in the Mark Streit deal. He added five goals and three assists in his 20 games.

"I felt like later in the year, we had more bullets in our gun," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week as the team held exit interviews and cleanout day. "(Jordan) Weal comes in and does a good job. Filppula comes in and really gives us stability. Really upgraded our top nine. So when you're talking 5-on-5 play, just to depend on five or six guys, all of a sudden you have nine guys you can count on."

The Flyers were 27th in the NHL with 128 goals at 5-on-5 -- a significant factor in their postseason absence.

But Filppula should bring more than simply a 5-on-5 boost.

The Flyers desperately needed depth at the center position to relieve some pressure from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Filppula, who came from the Lightning and played seven seasons with the Red Wings -- winning a Stanley Cup in 2008 -- is a sound matchup center and plays on the penalty kill, too.

"I think with Fil coming in this year, it really helped our depth," Giroux said. "He brings a lot to the team. He kills penalties, power plays, very good defensively and he's a smart player. When you bring a guy in like that, you kind of get excited a little bit."

From Filppula's first game on March 2 to the end of the regular season, the Flyers scored 56 goals, 12th most in the NHL over that span and 2.80 per game -- both improvements from their ranking of 21th on the full season and 2.59 per game.

"Now that we feel like we have nine guys that are legit top-nine forwards," Hextall said, "we've got good balance."

Couturier saw immediate benefits when the Flyers acquired Filppula. Couturier started playing with Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn, which turned out to be the team's best line combination to finish the regular season.

"I think it just brought some depth to our lineup," Couturier said of Filppula acquisition. "I had the chance to play after that with Schenn and Weiser and we just found chemistry right away and things went really well."

It provided head coach Dave Hakstol greater flexibility.

"The addition of Val Filppula to our group up front made our group of forwards better," Hakstol said. "Not just his presence, which I think he's an outstanding hockey player, a good hockey player and a real good veteran, but it just allowed some of the others to come together. I think there's real substance there."

The Flyers hope it shows with a full season of Filppula.

"I think when Filppula came in, the balance that seemed to come with him entering our lineup helped us both with and without the puck," Hakstol said. "Will that cohesion help us generate more offensively on an 82-game basis, not just a short-term basis? I think the answers to those things are yes."