ST. PAUL, Minn. – Before their road trip, the Flyers had won six of their last seven games and, even with high-scoring right winger Travis Konecny sidelined by a concussion, were riding high.
Since then, it has turned disastrous.
First came the devastating news that gifted left winger Oskar Lindblom was battling a rare type of bone cancer, and then came their second straight loss on the trip, a mostly listless 4-1 defeat Saturday night to the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.
Making matters worse, the Flyers lost two more players to injuries: wingers Scott Laughton and Tyler Pitlick. Pitlick was injured in the first period, Laughton in the second. Neither player returned, and general manager Chuck Fletcher will have to add players from the AHL’s Phantoms, a team that also has a plethora of injuries.
“There’s no doubt it’s a challenging situation,” coach Alain Vigneault said, “but at the end of the day, we had a couple power plays at the end. We had our best players on the ice. They have to find a way to execute and make the other team pay. We were [trailing 3-1] and were a shot away from making this a game.”
Vigneault, whose team’s power play is 0-for-16 over the last six games, said the Flyers were still sorting out which player(s) would be recalled from the Phantoms.
With Michael Raffl (broken pinkie) and Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder) already sidelined, the Flyers are now without five forwards heading into their game at 5 p.m. Sunday in Winnipeg.
“Everybody deals with injuries during the season,” Jake Voracek said. “We have to find a way.”
Eric Staal, Minnesota’s 35-year-old center, had a pair of scores -- the 68th multi-goal performance of his 999-point career -- to pace the surging Wild.
Minnesota, which got a 183-foot empty-net goal from Carson Soucy, has points in its last 12 home games (9-0-3). Overall, the Wild have points in 14 of their last 15 contests.
The Flyers have lost three of their last four, and they suffered consecutive regulation defeats for the first time since Oct. 27-29.
The Flyers managed just 18 shots -- eight over the first two periods -- while playing against the league’s 28th-ranked defense.
“They did a good job of keeping us to the outside and staying in shot lanes," left winger James van Riemsdyk said.
“There wasn’t a lot of room," Vigneault said. "Right now, there’s no doubt we can’t play the open-ice style that some nights we may be able to play” with a healthy lineup. "So we have to tighten it up and we have to find a way to execute the plays we can.”
Minnesota goalie Alex Stalock wasn’t tested much, but early in the third period he made a key stop on van Riemsdyk from the doorstep to keep the Wild ahead, 3-1.
Poor net-front coverage led to a pair of goals that gave the Wild a 2-1 lead in the opening period.
Van Riemsdyk had opened the scoring by taking a pass from rookie Morgan Frost and firing a shot off Stalock’s glove from the right circle, putting the Flyers ahead just 1 minute, 34 seconds into the game.
“Frosty made a great play to pop the puck loose,” van Riemsdyk said after his seventh goal of the season and his third in the last seven games.
The lead didn’t last long.
Less than five minutes after van Riemsdyk’s goal, Kevin Fiala’s wraparound attempt deflected off teammate Zach Parise and past Carter Hart to knot the score at 1-all. Staal, alone in front, scored on his own backhand rebound 95 seconds later to give the Wild a 2-1 cushion.
Midway through the second period, Staal made it 3-1, scoring on his own rebound as he squeaked it through Hart’s pads.