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."

Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- As far as he can remember, in his six years with the Flyers, Matt Read hasn't played on a line with both Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

Read has spent time with each of the Flyers' top two scorers at various times but never together. The Flyers hope the cohesiveness comes together quickly after making changes to three of the lines on Wednesday in an attempt keep their sagging playoff hopes.

"We're running out of time here, so hopefully a couple line changes here gives us a little spark offensively," Read said. "We've still got to play better defensively, but you know it's kind of do-or-die right now. So hopefully chemistry clicks right away and things can start going off the bat."

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol had hinted at adjusting the lines recently but stuck with the current structure in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss at Winnipeg (see game story). With the ability to practice Wednesday in Minnesota before Thursday's game against the Wild, Hakstol followed through with the adjustment.

Hakstol met with the four centers before practice and then had Giroux with Voracek and Read. Valtteri Filppula centered Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was teamed with Travis Konecny and Chris VandeVelde.

Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Dale Weise stayed together.

"That line, it's been a good line for us," Hakstol said of Schenn, Couturier and Weise. "Off their game a little bit yesterday, but they've been a good line and I'm confident they'll come back and do a good job tomorrow. The other changes are just looking at different things coming off a road performance yesterday… just looking at a way to inject a little bit more into our lineup for a real tough road game here tomorrow night."

The Flyers didn't lose any ground with Tuesday's loss with Boston, Tampa Bay and Carolina also losing. But the Flyers now have just 10 games remaining as they trail Toronto by seven points for the final wild-card spot.

"We didn't take advantage of the opportunity we had for two points," Hakstol said. "At the end of the day, you can't sit back and watch what's happening elsewhere. You've got to take care of your own backyard, and that's what our focus is. We didn't get it done yesterday. Point blank, we didn't get it done. So, we've got an opportunity tomorrow night for two points and that's what our job is."

Reuniting Giroux and Voracek, along with Read, is one way he hopes to solve the issue. Voracek said he knows the onus is on his line to lead the way.

"We know what to expect from each other," Voracek said. "When we move our feet, we are dangerous. So that's what we've got to do. We've got to have fun. We've got to find a way to score the goals and help the team to win the games, because we're going to play a lot of minutes."

Another possible change for Hakstol could come along the defense. Brandon Manning practiced on Wednesday and Hakstol said it's possible he could rejoin the lineup against the Wild.

Manning hasn't played since March 11 because of a right shoulder injury. Hakstol said he's confident Manning is ready and a decision will be made Thursday morning on which of the seven defensemen will play in the game.

"He's practiced well," Hakstol said. "He got extra work in yesterday. He practiced well today. We'll have a decision to make tomorrow."

Steve Mason critical of Flyers' effort in road loss to Jets

Steve Mason critical of Flyers' effort in road loss to Jets

BOX SCORE

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Steve Mason sat alone in his stall, clearly dejected by what he'd just witnessed. His team, supposedly fighting for its playoff lives, had come out with one of its flattest efforts of the season.

Where was the push? Where was the desperation? Mason certainly didn't see it.

"I don't think anyone is too pleased with this game," the candid Flyers goaltender said following Tuesday night's 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets (see Instant Replay). "It's frustrating for everybody, considering the situation we are in. We need to be a more desperate hockey club. I don't think we were tonight."

Mason did his part, stopping 30 of 33 shots he faced (see feature highlight). At the top of his list of complaints was the eight consecutive minutes in penalties the Flyers took in the second period. Winnipeg would score the tying goal during one of those four power plays and seemingly steal all momentum away from the Flyers.

"It gets everybody out of rhythm, gets key guys sitting on the bench for too long a period of time," Mason said. "It definitely just disrupted any chance of making a push during the second, for sure."

Forward Jordan Weal said he expected more as his team began the third period with the score tied 1-1 and the result still very much up in the air.

"Our killers did a great job to keep us in that game," Weal said. "Guys that didn't kill need to come out in the third and come up big. There just wasn't enough push in that third."

The Flyers remain seven points out of the final wild-card playoff spot but now have just 10 games remaining (see standings).

"If you want to be a playoff team, we've got to be more consistent in what we do," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "We need to find ways to get it done every night."

Head coach Dave Hakstol bemoaned his team's play on the road as of late; it has now dropped four straight in enemy territory.

"It's been a difference for us," Hakstol said. "That's how it is right now. This is one we needed here that we didn't get tonight on the road."

Mason said struggling away from home speaks to bigger issues with the team.

"We haven't been a good road team and it's cost us. It's put us in the position we're in right now," Mason said. "It's easy to have a good record at home. You're comfortable there. But we have to elevate our games on the road. It's a little bit more difficult to feel good about your game on the road, but it's all about hard work and working for it and we're not doing a good job."

Giroux said they were aware Winnipeg was without several key players, especially on defense, but didn't do enough to take advantage.

"I think we could have cycled that puck a little bit more and created more chances," he said. "At the end of the day, we need to focus on our game. We're a better team than what happened tonight." 

Mason noted that Winnipeg goalie Michael Hutchinson was making his first start in two months, but the Flyers failed to generate much in the way of scoring chances.

"I don't think we made it hard enough on him. We need to have a better effort," Mason said. "We keep playing like this and we'll be mathematically eliminated before we know it. We've got to stop this win one, lose one. We need to have some growth as a team here."