Zucker, Dubnyk enable Wild to fluster Flyers
PHILADELPHIA — As long as Jason Zucker keeps scoring goals and Devan Dubnyk continues to pitch shutouts, the Minnesota Wild stand a good chance of winning.
Zucker scored the game’s only goal — his sixth in three games — at 1:08 of the third period and Dubnyk stopped all 32 shots he faced for his second straight shutout to lead the Wild to a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night.
Zucker has scored each of the Wild’s last six goals over the span of three games.
“I’d like somebody else to score a goal it that’s OK,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said after seeing his team even its record at 7-7-2. “As long as he keeps getting them and we keep winning, we’re going good.”
Dubnyk improved to 6-6-1 with the win. He has stopped 73 shots in back-to-back shutouts over the Montreal Canadiens and Flyers.
“I was pretty bad two years ago, so it’s nice to be back to being a good goalie again,” Dubnyk joked, referring to his career-worst 26 losses in 2015-16. “We had very good sticks tonight and we got some huge blocks in the third period. I felt like (Ryan) Suter was eating pucks left and right.”
Suter recorded three blocks and defenseman Jared Spurgeon got in the way of five more for Minnesota, which blocked 18 on the evening.
Brian Elliott (26 saves) took the loss for the Flyers (8-7-2), who were blanked for the fourth time this season. Four of Philadelphia’s seven regulation losses have been by shutout. They entered Saturday’s game on a modest 2-0-1 streak.
“I thought it was grind out there, not a lot of space,” said center Sean Couturier, who led the Flyers with six shots. “We kind of knew that was their style of play and I thought it could have gone either way tonight. It was almost like a playoff game early in the year.”
Zucker’s game-winning goal came on his first shift of the third period when he banked a shot off Elliott from the goal line. Elliott had committed to a shot by Wild defenseman Matt Dumba that was deflected behind the net by Flyers right winger Travis Konecny. He was returning to his goal crease when Zucker wristed a shot off his leg and into the net.
“I think it deflected off the boards and kind of right to the back post, so you’re just trying to get over there and cover and it just went off me on a weird angle and went in,” said Elliott, who has allowed just two goals in his last two games. “It’s not something you want but that’s the way the cookie crumbles, I guess.”
With six goals in three games, Zucker now leads the Wild with nine goals. He scored a career-high 22 last season and said he’s never had a scoring binge quite like this.
“I’m just going to the net and trying to play my game,” he said. “We’re just trying to get wins right now; we need them really bad.”
Boudreau said Dubnyk’s performance against Philadelphia might have been his best of the season.
“He controlled everything,” Boudreau said. “His movements were really good. I’d like to bottle up his confidence right now.”
The Flyers went 0-for-3 on the power play and have just one man-advantage goal in their last five games (1-for-16). The Wild, meanwhile, have been perfect on the penalty kill their last four games, killing off 12 straight man-advantage opportunities.
“At some point we have to force something to the net,” said right winger Wayne Simmonds, who has gone nine games without a goal after scoring six in his first eight games. “We have to work a little bit harder and little bit smarter.”
NOTES: G Alex Stalock rejoined the Wild in Philadelphia after attending the birth of his daughter on Wednesday. He served as a backup to Devan Dubnyk, who made his 13th appearance of the season. Stalock (1-1-1, 2.40 GAA, .925 save percentage) could get the call when the Wild and Flyers meet again on Tuesday night in St. Paul. ... Flyers rookie C Nolan Patrick, the second overall pick of the 2017 draft, missed his eighth straight game with a head injury. He is expected to miss Tuesday’s rematch against the Wild but could return to the lineup Thursday night in Winnipeg. Flyers D Andrew MacDonald missed his ninth straight game with a knee injury but is expected to return to practice on Monday. He also may play on Thursday. Flyers D Robert Hagg, who played on a top pairing with D Ivan Provorov, entered the game ranked third among NHL rookies in average ice time (19:18). ... The Wild play three of their next four games at home.