(St. Paul, MN) – Scottie Upshall and Jeff Carter each tallied a goal and an assist while Antero Niittymaki made 28 saves to lead the Flyers to a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday night.
Philadelphia’s penalty-killing and the play of Niittymaki, making just his fourth start of the year in net, led the Flyers to their fourth straight road win. It also snapped Minnesota’s five-game winning streak.
The third period began with the Flyers holding a 2-1 lead, before a rare goal from big defenseman Braydon Coburn gave Philadelphia a two-goal cushion. Coburn ripped a slap shot from behind the blue line that should have been handled by goaltender Niklas Backstrom, but instead found the back of the net at 4:01.
Antero Niittymaki stops Minnesota's Aaron Voros early in the game with the Wild on a two-man advantage. (Getty Images)
The Flyers were able to shut down Minnesota after that, including a five-on-three Wild power play lasting over a minute. Philadelphia killed off an earlier, lengthy two-man advantage in the opening moments of the game as well, as Niittymaki made some key stops to keep it scoreless.
Philadelphia’s strong play on the road of late has helped to offset an 0-3-2 stretch on home ice and keep pace with the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils for a tie for first place in the Atlantic Division with 32 points.
“We’re just trying to build some consistency,” said Coburn, who netted his first goal of the season. “We knew coming in here it was going to be a hostile environment and Minnesota has been playing really well. Thank goodness we’ve been playing [well] on the road lately.”
“We just came out on the road and played a real simple game and executed well,” added Jason Smith. “We haven’t been making the errors that we have been making at home.”
The closest Minnesota came to tallying on its early two-man advantage came during an embarrassing moment for referee Brad Meier. He pointed towards the net at an apparent phantom puck after Aaron Voros shot from point-blank range. It never made its way through the pads of Niittymaki, however, as a video review showed.
“When we really needed [Niittymaki] to make a save he was tremendous,” said John Stevens. “He was really dialed in the whole game but in the first period in those penalty kills he was terrific. He really gave our team energy.”
“I saw pretty much every shot tonight,” said Niittymaki, who knew four days in advance he would be playing in the game. “I had a chance to practice for a little while and prepare mentally.”
The Wild had eight power plays, scoring once, compared with the Flyers’ going scoreless on two attempts. Overall, Minnesota had almost two-and-a-half minutes on the two-man advantage.
“To kill that much time [down] five-on-three is remarkable,” said Stevens.
The line of Carter, Upshall and Denis Tolpeko keyed the first period offense for the Flyers, combining for six points.
First, Upshall’s backhanded rebound attempt got through Backstrom before the Wild goaltender inadvertently bumped the puck just over the goal line at 4:44.
Upshall won a battle in the corner which led to the second Flyers goal. After he passed back to Tolpeko, the rookie threw it towards the net where Carter took the pass and made a quick deke on Backstrom for his ninth goal of the season midway through.
Pavol Demitra scored the lone goal for Minnesota in the first minute of the second period, redirecting a slap shot by Brian Rolston on the power play.
The Flyers conclude their brief two-game road trip in Colorado on Friday (9:00 p.m., CW-57).
FLYERS NOTES Scott Hartnell returned from a two-game suspension. … Steve Downie made his NHL debut. … Defenseman Lasse Kukkonen was a healthy scratch in favor of Rory Fitzpatrick. … John Stevens coached in his 100th game in the NHL. … The Flyers are 11-2-1 when scoring first, 13-0-0 when leading after two periods, and 9-6-0 overall on the road.
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