Flyers suffer first loss on trip, 2-1 in Colorado

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Flyers suffer first loss on trip, 2-1 in Colorado

BOX SCORE

DENVER -- They had the rushes they needed. They had plays that seemed to set the table for them.

What the Flyers didn’t have in the final five minutes of a 2-1 loss to the Avalanche was enough shots.

They had three shots to that point in the period, but would finish with seven more over the final frantic minutes of the game on goalie Semyon Varlamov, who stole points.

That’s the essence of why the Flyers couldn’t keep their western road trip record at a perfect 4-0, incurring their first loss in the five-game swing (see Instant Replay).

“Their defense had good gaps on us all night,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “We could have shot the puck more, but I tend to always think that.

“Putting the puck on net from anywhere is a good play if you got people who are supposed to go there. Things happen. If you pass up shots, you pass up goals.”

Sean Couturier was among several players driving hard those final minutes but not finishing with a shot on goal. Something always seemed to stall the rush up ice.

“I know what you’re talking about,” Berube said. “We had some rushes and we kind of pulled up or looking for late guys and it got deflected. Normally, our guys drive and put it on net. You don’t have to shoot it hard. Put it on net. Rebounds come out.”

The Flyers had 30 shots in the game, yet not enough early in the final period. Despite that, they still had quality chances throughout the game on Varlamov.

“We had a lot of chances,” Scott Hartnell said. “He was moving east-west and he was there to make the stops. Sometimes you run into a hot goalie and you can’t do nothing about.

“We fought hard, had lots of chances but the shifts we didn’t play well turned it over and the puck ended up in our net.”

Colorado made an early push in the third period and the Flyers made a late push back, but again, it wasn’t enough.

“We were screening, we had a couple of point-blank chances, people driving the net,” Hartnell said. “Most games, you do that you get bounces or you get rewarded for your hard work. Tonight we got stoned.”

Wayne Simmonds, who had the lone Flyer goal in the second period to make it a 2-1 game, also had a good chance in the final minute from distance.

“We had our chances, we played a good game but we didn’t capitalize on our chances,” Simmonds said. “Ultimately, that’s the game.

“Varlamov played really well. We could have done some better things as a team, but as a whole, we played pretty decent.

“It would have been nice to pick up any points in this game. We have to build on it going into Phoenix.”

Flyers goalie Steve Mason agreed.

“The effort was there,” Mason said. “We had a lot of chances to go ahead. The puck just wasn’t bouncing our way, but not for lack of effort. The guys worked hard to create chances.”

Flyers captain Claude Giroux said he felt winded out there with the thin Denver air by the third period but kept going. The atmosphere here is something the Flyers aren’t used to because they don’t come to Colorado enough.

“We had a lot of chances to tie it up. The effort was there, guys worked really hard and Mase had the saves to keep us in the game,” Giroux said. “Lot of chances with pucks on the goal line.”

Flyers regroup behind Steve Mason for big win over Wild

Flyers regroup behind Steve Mason for big win over Wild

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When Zach Parise scored for the Minnesota Wild just 2:07 into Thursday's game, the Flyers were in another difficult position on the road.

This time, they responded with the type of game they've needed on the road all season.

The Flyers scored three unanswered goals by Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Jakub Voracek to beat Minnesota, 3-1, and snap a four-game losing streak on the road (see Instant Replay).

"They're a tough team to handle in their transition," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said of Parise's goal. "It's quick and it's fast. The players on the bench were outstanding, talking, real calm. Just go out and push it the other way the next shift and I thought we were able to do that."

The Flyers responded with one of their best efforts on the road in nearly two months and pulled within six points of Boston for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference (see standings). The Bruins lost, 6-3, at home to Tampa Bay.

Steve Mason made 24 saves in goal for his 100th win with the Flyers as the team was rarely challenged thanks to an all-around performance that has been missing on the road. The Flyers entered the night tied for the second-fewest road wins in the conference this season.

"Certain things on the road, you've got to be a little more specific with your game and detailed, and I think we did a better job of that tonight," said Flyers defenseman Nick Schultz, who returned to the arena where he played 10 seasons with Minnesota. "Everybody throughout the lineup did that and that's why we got a big win."

The beginning looked all too familiar, though.

An innocent looking dump-in slid to Mason, who tried to cover the puck. The puck went off his stick and Parise quickly poked it past Mason. The Wild had four quality chances early before the Flyers took control.

"They came hard early on in the game and to be able to match that speed; that was a completely different pace of game compared to what we came from in Winnipeg," Mason said. "So, it almost took a second to get your bearings straight to get up to speed."

The Flyers weathered the early flurry by Minnesota, which is safely in playoff position in the West but is facing its own late-season issues. The Flyers killed off both Wild penalties, allowing just two shots on the penalty kill.

Couturier's 12th goal of the season was critical in tying the game with 2:01 left in the first (see feature highlight).

"Coming into the room after the period, I think it's important when you get a big goal like that," captain Claude Giroux said. "You feel like you have the momentum a little bit, so it definitely helped us a lot."

Read provided the lead in the second and the Flyers, who are now 15-2-2 when leading after two periods, pressured in the third. They outshot the Wild, 9-4, in the final period.

"We didn't sit back," Hakstol said. "I thought we were confident with the puck and made some plays and spent a good amount of time in the offensive zone. We played with real confidence in our game."

Mason had been critical after the Flyers lost in Winnipeg on Tuesday, saying the team needed to be more desperate. The Flyers responded Thursday in the difficult position of being on the road and allowing the first goal.

"We knew we had to be better," Schultz said of Mason's comments. "I think on the road, you've got to be at least a .500 team and take care of business at home, and we haven't done that this year. So, obviously, we've got to get better and I think we did respond tonight. Now we have to build on it."

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Wild 1

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Wild 1

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A much-needed win for the Flyers came in an unlikely spot: on the road against one of the Western Conference's top teams.

Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Jakub Voracek scored for the Flyers, and Steve Mason made 24 saves in a 3-1 win over the Wild on Thursday. It snapped a four-game winless streak on the road and kept the Flyers' playoff hopes alive.

Mason allowed an early goal to Zach Parise but recovered, and Couturier tied the game in the first. The Flyers responded as a whole and Read scored for the second time in an as many games, while Voracek had his first goal in 11 games with his 18th of the season.

Goalie report
Playing for the 11th time in 12 games, Mason was a little shaky at the start after not covering the puck twice and then coming far out of the cage, leading to a wraparound opportunity for Minnesota. But after Parise's goal -- one of the times Mason thought he had the puck covered -- the netminder was very steady. He didn't get out of position and allowed less than two goals for the fourth time in 12 games.

The victory marked Mason's 100th in a Flyers uniform. He is third in franchise history behind Ron Hextall (240) and Bernie Parent (232).

Faceoffs
The Flyers were dominant in the faceoff circle on Thursday, winning 61 percent of the draws.

Power play
The Flyers didn't take advantage of their one opportunity in the game as defenseman Ivan Provorov was called for a hooking penalty halfway through their lone power play. The Flyers are now 3 for 40 on the power play over the past 12 games.
 
Penalty kill
The penalty kill had one of its better performances in recent games. The Flyers killed off both penalties and allowed just two Minnesota shots in the three minutes of penalty time. Entering the game, the Flyers had allowed 10 goals in 28 occasions on the penalty kill in the previous nine games.

A small move
With the win, the Flyers were able to pull closer to the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston lost, 6-3, at home to Tampa Bay, allowing the Flyers to close within six points with nine games left. The Bruins have only eight games remaining. Two of the teams between Boston and the Flyers -- the Lightning and Hurricanes -- did win Thursday, while the Islanders were idle (see wild-card standings).

Lines change
Looking for a spark, three of the four lines were changed for Thursday's game. Claude Giroux centered Read and Voracek. Valtteri Filppula was between Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare teamed with Travis Konecny and Chris VandeVelde. Coach Dave Hakstol kept the line of Brayden Schenn, Couturier and Dale Weise together.

Blue line return
Defenseman Brandon Manning made his return after missing five games with a shoulder injury.
 
Scratches
Forwards Nick Cousins (upper body) and Roman Lyubimov (healthy), and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (healthy).
 
Up next
The third game of the four-game road trip is Saturday at Columbus. The Flyers are 0-1-1 against the Blue Jackets this season, including a 5-3 loss at home on March 13.