ST. PAUL, Minn. – Someone has to score first and for the first time in eight games the Minnesota Wild beat their opponent to the punch.
Jason Pominville and Charlie Coyle scored goals 57 seconds apart early in the third period to break open a defensive standoff and lift the Wild to a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia on Monday night.
“We’d been giving up the first goal so many times lately,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “I figure if we’re not going to score it, don’t let them.”
Josh Harding made 21 saves for this third shutout of the season.
“Better start,” Yeo said. “And again, that’s something we’ve talked about.”
In their previous seven games, the Wild had immediately fallen behind and were outscored 15-4 in the first two periods. They were 2-4-1 in those games.
Although it took a while for the Wild to get anything going offensively, they effectively kept the Flyers locked down. Playing without leading goal scorer Vincent Lecavalier (back spasms), Philadelphia had only six shots on goal and no real scoring chances in the first 33 minutes.
The Wild didn’t really, either, until Pominville collected Mikko Koivu’s pass in the crease and flipped it past Ray Emery 3:52 into the third period. Koivu was skating around the back of the net when he spun and passed behind his defender.
“I didn’t know if it was Poms or Zach (Parise), but once I saw someone was there, I tried to get it on tape and I did,” Koivu said. “Obviously he made a good shot, getting it up high. It was pretty tight for him. Good shot.”
On the ensuing shift, Coyle tapped a rebound off Jared Spurgeon’s slap shot into an empty corner at 4:11 to make it 2-0.
“It took a while, but we know if we stick to our system, we’re going to break them down, and that’s what happened,” Coyle said.
It was an impressive and unexpected flurry in a game that had played out as the statistics predicted. When the puck dropped, the Wild’s 17 even-strength goals allowed in 21 games led the NHL; and the Flyers had allowed two or fewer goals in 10 of their past 14 games.
Plus, the Wild had scored only six goals in their five previous games (1-3-1). But Minnesota controlled most of the action, even if its chances were minimal, to improve to 11-3-2 at home.
Harding improved to 11-1-0 at Xcel Energy Center this season and 32-10-2 all-time despite playing at a disadvantage for much of the third period. He faced down two power plays to nurse a 2-0 lead – once going corner to corner to dive in front of a point-blank shot by Jakub Voracek – then stopped two shots after Flyers coach Craig Berube pulled Emery with 3:22 left in regulation.
“It’s unbelievable this year, so many chances,” Voracek said. “I hit a couple posts, a couple good saves. Last year everything went under the bar. … This year I think it’s going to go in and then something happens. That was a great save by Harding.”
The Flyers were trying to crack .500 for the first time this season after rebounding from a 1-7-0 start. They’re 11-6-2 since a 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers Oct. 24, but fell to 1-10-1 this season when the opponent scores first.
NOTES: Flyers C Vincent Lecavalier (back spasms) was a scratch Monday. He entered the game with a team-leading nine goals. … Wild D Mathew Dumba, 19, was one of 25 players invited to Canada’s Junior National Team camp on Monday. The only invitee on an NHL roster, Dumba would have to be loaned out by the Wild. That’s likely barring an injury on Minnesota’s blue line. Camp is scheduled to begin Dec. 12. … Peter Luukko left his job as president and chief operating office of Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the Flyers, on Monday. Luukko will be replaced on an interim basis by Dave Scott, who recently retired as executive vice-president and CFO. … The Flyers have killed 14 consecutive power plays.