The last time the Philadelphia Flyers played Minnesota before Thursday night, all of us were still dazed from the devastating news the previous day: Oskar Lindblom was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer.
That game, a 4-1 Wild win, was on Dec. 14, 2019, in Minnesota.
On Thursday, the teams finally met again. Lindblom, as you know, has made an amazing recovery and is playing left wing on the Flyers’ second line. That line was the Flyers’ best unit Thursday, and appeared to be leading Philadelphia past a strong team.
And then …
Matt Boldy and Jonas Brodin scored late goals 25 seconds apart to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 lead.
Minnesota ended a four-game losing streak as it rallied for a 5-4 win at the more-than-half-empty Wells Fargo Center.
“As soon as adversity struck, we crumbled,” interim coach Mike Yeo said.
Boldy took advantage of Ivan Provorov’s turnover to make it 4-4 with 7:44 left. Brodin then whipped a point drive that eluded Carter Hart, who appeared screened by defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.
And the beat goes on.
“It sucks losing, especially that way,” left winger James van Riemsdyk said.
Scott Laughton, Patrick Brown, Travis Konecny, and van Riemsdyk scored for the turnover-plagued Flyers, who lost for the 21st time in their last 24 games.
“We scored some goals, but I don’t think we were very strong tonight,” said Yeo, whose Flyers were guilty of 15 giveaways — nine more than Minnesota, his former team.
Brown said the Flyers need to “expect to win” when games are hanging in the balance. That, obviously, is difficult after such a prolonged stretch of losing.
“We’ve been in that situation a lot this year, where we’ve gotten the lead in the third, especially at home,” Brown said. “I think as a team, we just have to expect to win. We have to dial it in and do the little things that good teams do to win those games. Tonight, we didn’t play a full 60.”
1. Ryan Hartman’s emergence probably has Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher shaking his head.
He scored his 20th and 21st goals Thursday — establishing a career high — and is centering eye-opening left winger Kirill Kaprizov and right winger Mats Zuccarello on the Wild’s top line.
Who saw that coming?
Hartman, 27, a gritty, hard-working player who had six shots Thursday, has 21 goals, 39 points, and a plus-25 rating. He scored on a rebound midway through the second to knot the score at 3-3, the third time Minnesota had overcome a one-goal deficit in the game.
Konecny, who played on a line with Hartman and Laughton with the Flyers, said he isn’t surprised by the center’s success.
“He was a great guy to play with. Plays the right way,” Konecny said after the loss. “He’s found a little home there in Minnesota and is doing a good job. It’s good to see a guy like that do well. He’s a good guy.”
In the summer of 2019, the Flyers dealt Hartman, then a restricted free agent, to Dallas for Tyler Pitlick, a Minnesota native.
Fletcher had made a great trade to acquire Hartman, getting him and a fourth-rounder for a declining Wayne Simmonds.
By the way, give Fletcher and his right-hand man, Brent Flahr, props by drafting Kaprizov in the fifth round for Minnesota in 2015. The Russian is already one of the NHL’s best players.
2. Hockey can be a very weird game.
Minnesota dominated the second period. It wasn’t just that the Wild had a 12-6 shots advantage in the period, but they were parked in the Flyers’ defensive end for most of the 20 minutes, generating long cycles time after time.
The Flyers outscored Minny, 2-1, in the period, and took a 4-3 lead on van Riemsdyk’s deflection while on a power play with 46 seconds to go in the second. It was JVR’s team-high seventh PP goal and first in 15 games.
“We were probably more fortunate to be in the lead at that position,” Yeo conceded.
3. Nice to see Travis Konecny find the back of the net.
Konecny showed great hands as he corralled Laughton’s pass in front and gave the Philadelphia Flyers a 3-2 lead with 14:53 left in the second period. It was just his second goal in the last 15 games.
Before the game, Konecny, who was on a 13-goal pace, said he was passing too much and needed to have a shot-first mentality. He had three shots in the first 25:07 against the Wild, and finished with a team-high four shots.
Late in the period, he hobbled off the ice after blocking a shot, but returned a short time later.
4. Defensive mistakes continue to haunt the Flyers.
Minnesota goalie Cam Talbot, who spent about 15 seconds with the Flyers a few years ago, was the definition of shaky in the first period. (And not much better later.)
But instead of going into the intermission with a lead, the Flyers were in a 2-2 tie because of defensive miscues.
First, Provorov allowed Kaprizov to go around him and start a nice passing play that ended with a Hartman goal, tying the game at 1-1.
And with fans heading to concession stands, Derick Brassard’s failed clearing pass led to Frederick Gaudreau’s goal with three seconds to go in the first, knotting the score at 2-2.
Provorov’s glaring turnover later led to the Wild’s fourth goal.
Why does it seem that, more times than not, opponents turn a Flyer miscue into a goal?
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) March 4, 2022
5. Minnesota is looking for a defenseman, and Justin Braun, a Minneapolis native, appears to be on their radar.
Braun, however, left the game in the second period with the flu and didn’t return. He’s the type of player who could stabilize the Wild’s suspect defense.
Fletcher has lots of connections with the Wild, so it would not be surprising if the steady Braun is being discussed, in addition to talks for Claude Giroux.
Minnesota did not have a scout, per se, in the press box Thursday, but it had officials at the game observing Giroux and Braun.
Scouts were there from Boston, Dallas, Anaheim, Colorado, Vancouver, Edmonton, Washington, Ottawa, Calgary, Vegas, the Rangers, Seattle, and St. Louis.
Rasmus Ristolainen had five hits and five blocked shots in 25:44. … Provorov and Nick Seeler each had three giveaways. … The Flyers suffered their first regulation loss when leading after two periods; they are now 7-1-3 in those situations. … Laughton, who had five hits and two points, leads the Flyers with eight points in the nine games since the All-Star break. … The Flyers (16-28-10) host Chicago (19-27-8) on Saturday at 3. Why is this a nationally televised game on ABC?!