ST. PAUL, Minn. – The key to playing back-to-back games, Flyers interim coach Scott Gordon had said before Tuesday night’s game, is to manage the game. Keep your shifts short, your risks as small as possible, and try to get that first goal.
"To me it’s about managing your shift and making sure that you’re not making it hard on yourself because of poor decision,'' said Gordon. "And getting overextended in your shift. So I think you have to be conscious of that. And not get overextended by thinking, `I’ve got one more opportunity to go on the rush’ and that turns into a backcheck defensive zone coverage and then you can’t move and then it affects your next shift.''
Well, they got that first goal.
As for the rest of it …
Well, they kind of made it up as they went along.
``It wasn’t the prettiest game,'' said James van Riemsdyk. ``But we found a way to get it done.''
Van Riemsdyk’s power-play bank shot off the glove of Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk at 15:31 of the third period amid a scramble provided the winning margin in a 5-4 victory . Claude Giroux’s blistering slapshot at 6:30 of the third erased a 4-3 lead the Wild had grabbed just minutes earlier.
Anthony Stolarz made 35 saves in an uneven, but often spectacular outing. He made six over the final two minutes as the Wild tried desperately to get the equalizer.
Jared Spurgeon’s wide-angled shot slid inside a far post that had been elevated by the 6-6 frame of Stolarz had given the Wild a 4-3 lead at 2:06 of the third period. Play continued, but a video review after the next stoppage revealed the puck had crossed the goal line before sliding through the other side of the net.
The Flyers twice rallied from deficits created by a combo platter of bad luck and oddities. It wasn’t how their coach -- whose AHL training consisted of plenty of back-to-back-to-back games -- drew it up. But then again, it was a strange game from start to finish.
The Wild scored three times in the first period to erase an early lead provided by Ivan Provorov. The Flyers were flagged for four penalties in that opening period, including a two-man disadvantage that resulted when Radko Gudas inexplicably whacked a puck midair with his hand over the glass, and a four minute double minor assessed when the referee mistakenly ruled that Robert Hagg had clipped the Wild’s Jason Zucker with his stick.
Replays showed teammate Jordan Greenway had done so.
``We obviously didn’t deserve that,'' said Gordon. ``And a couple others were iffy. ... Not a whole lot of good after those first minutes.''
No, it was a whole lot of mayhem, right into the early part of the second period. The Flyers fueled a team that had lost five of its last six, a team that has struggled with slow starts and uneven performances. Zach Parise tied it 1-1 at 8:48 in the waning seconds of the two-man advantage. Luke Kunin then took advantage of a misplay by Shayne Gostisbehere in the slot to grab a 2-1 lead at the 10:45 mark. He scored again at 13:28 with another opportunistic goal, jumping on a loose puck in front that had eluded Travis Konecny.
All that erased an early Flyers lead, scored when Provorov’s shot from the point deflected off Dubnyk’s arm and into the net 2:54 into the game.
Van Riemsdyk’s power play goal at 8:42 of the second period – a double deflection – tightened it at 3-2. Sean Couturier’s 24th goal this season (and fifth in his last six), which came via a spectacular rush to the net by Travis Sanheim, pulled it even at 3 at 13:57.
The Flyers were being outshot, 23-13, at that point.
Stolarz, who actually stopped nine of the shots he saw in that period, made several stretch saves that had Wild players looking upward early on. Provorov even got into the act, preventing an early open-net goal by dragging his stick behind him desperately.
Not the way it was drawn up. But effective just the same.