ST. PAUL, Minn. — Dave Hakstol juggled his second and third lines Tuesday night, trying to jump-start the Flyers’ foundering offense.
It didn’t work.
For the second straight game, Devan Dubnyk blanked the Flyers, keying Minnesota’s 3-0 win at the Xcel Energy Center. He collected his third straight shutout and raised his scoreless streak to a club-record 195 minutes, 5 seconds.
It marked the first time since 2003 that Minnesota had registered back-to-back shutouts against the Flyers, who slipped to 8-8-2 with their third loss in their last four games.
The Flyers, who finished with a 30-20 shots advantage, have been shut out five times in their first 18 games, a pace to be blanked 23 times in a full season.
The club record for getting shut out in a season: 10 times in 1968-69.
“We’re controlling play and not giving up a lot,” center Sean Couturier said. “We have to find a way to win some one-on-one battles and beat guys going to the net.”
Eric Staal and Jason Zucker scored late empty-net goals to turn a 1-0 lead to 3-0.
Trailing 1-0, the Flyers’ Dale Weise was denied by Dubnyk as he went in on a breakaway with 14:35 to go in regulation.
Twelve seconds into the game, Nino Niederreiter put a left-circle one-timer past Brian Elliott to give Minnesota a quick lead. In the previous three games, Zucker, a speedy right winger, had all six of the Wild’s goals, one shy of equaling an NHL record for consecutive goals for a team.
“They caught us maybe a little asleep at the start,” Elliott said, “and then we’re fighting from behind.”
Niederreiter, playing in his 400th career game, scored after taking a pass from Staal, who took the puck away from defenseman Ivan Provorov.
The Flyers managed just six first-period shots and didn’t seriously test Dubnyk, who had a 1-0 shutout Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center.
Before the game, right winger Wayne Simmonds said the Flyers needed to do a better job creating traffic in front of the net.
But the Flyers didn’t have a quality scoring chance until fourth-line center Scott Laughton was robbed by the 6-foot-6 Dubnyk with 11:30 left in the second period. Michael Raffl, pointless in his last 38 games, made a great pass from behind the net to set up Laughton for a one-timer. Dubnyk used his left pad to protect the 1-0 lead.
“It feels like our line has three of those a game and nothing to show for it,” Laughton said of the near-miss. “It’s frustrating.”
Taylor Leier had two good chances in the final 68 seconds of the second period, hitting iron on one shot and being denied by Dubnyk from point-blank range on the other.
The Flyers had a 17-7 shots advantage in the second period.
“Good things are going to come here if we keep playing that way,” said Weise, who took five shots. “Give some credit to Dubnyk.”
Dubnyk, 31, has been stellar since Minnesota acquired him from Arizona for a third-round draft pick on Jan. 15, 2015. Since then, he had a 105-60-14 record, a 2.20 goals-against average, and a .924 save percentage before Tuesday. He entered the night second in wins and save percentage in the NHL during that span, and his 17 shutouts were tied for No. 1 in the league.
Trying to get his offense going, Hakstol made several changes in his second and third lines. The most eye-opening move was shifting Jordan Weal from third-line winger to second-line center.
Weal was on a line with wingers Weise and Simmonds.
That line, along with the Flyers’ high-scoring top unit composed of Couturier, Claude Giroux, and Jake Voracek, combined for 13 of the Flyers’ 30 shots, but Dubnyk had all the answers.
Paging Danick Martel. Paging Danick Martell…..
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) November 15, 2017
Elliott, meanwhile, got into a groove after allowing a goal on the game’s first shot. It was his third straight start and his third consecutive outstanding performance. He kept the Flyers within one goal by stopping Tyler Ennis on a breakaway with 18:25 remaining in regulation.
With 6:40 left to play, he made a great save on Marcus Foligno from in close.
No matter. The Flyers wasted his excellence. Again.