ST. PAUL, Minn. - Skates have been carving the frozen ponds and lakes in the "State of Hockey" for more than 100 years.
Before every Minnesota Wild home game, high-school hockey players representing one of the teams whose jerseys dot the concourse at Xcel Energy Center chant in unison with the crowd: "Let's . . . Play . . . Hockey!"
Apparently, the Flyers didn't hear them.
They also must not have read the two key stats defining this Wild team recently: that it had given up the first goal in seven straight games and also had scored five game-winning or game-tying goals in the final 5 minutes of games in the month of November alone.
The Flyers didn't take advantage of either.
Instead, they sleepwalked through the first 50 minutes on a snowy Minnesota night. The Wild scored twice in the blink of 57 seconds in the third period to down the Flyers, 2-0, in the second game of a seasonlong, 13-day road trip.
"We weren't skating enough," Brayden Schenn said. "We were sitting, waiting, watching quite a bit against a good team."
It was the Flyers' third loss (2-3-1) in their sixth trip to the Twin Cities since hockey returned here in 2000. With it, the Flyers failed to take advantage of their second chance this season to crawl above the .500 mark for the first time.
They also squandered a golden opportunity to climb into a Stanley Cup playoff spot for the first time after their 1-7-0 start to the season, since both the Rangers and Devils lost earlier in the night.
"When you have a lot of games left in the season, we're not worried about other teams," captain Claude Giroux said. "They can win or lose. We need to focus on our team."
It was no surprise, though, that a matchup between the NHL's 23rd- and 27th-ranked offenses began the third period mired in a scoreless tie. Minnesota had given up just 34 goals in five-on-five play this season, the fewest in the NHL.
"It was a tight game," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "We expected that. They're a stingy team over there and they play good defense. I knew from the get-go it was going to be a close game. We had to be patient."
The surprise came when both Jason Pominville and Charlie Coyle scored less than a minute apart on juicy rebounds off Ray Emery's pads. Emery had little help in front of him, the Flyers failing to tie up loose Wild players.
"We played pretty well after that, trying to get back," Emery said.
The Flyers' loss wasn't due to a lack of effort from the bench. Berube called a timeout immediately following Coyle's tally, with 15:11 left. The Flyers rewarded him with just two shots on goal in the next 5 minutes, 2 of those minutes including a power play.
Then, the Flyers turned it up over the final 10 minutes of the game. They outshot Minnesota, 11-6, in the third period while the Wild packed in its players for a defensive push. Norris Trophy candidate Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin roamed the net with a purpose, saving goaltender Josh Harding a lot of trouble.
Berube yanked Emery with 3:22 to play - an unconventionally early time. It nearly yielded a quick goal from Jake Voracek.
"We knew we weren't going to get a lot of chances against that team," Berube said. "It was the perfect spot. Our top players were rested, the faceoff was in their zone. I thought if we could get one, we'd have some time."
But Harding, who continues his inspirational run after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last season, stood tall to net his third shutout of the season.
"We had the extra man, we were pressing," Schenn said. "We can't wait until the 56-minute mark to try and score. When you don't skate, it's not going to work."
Ray Emery stopped 19 of 21 shots. It was Emery's second start in 5 days and his first career loss to Minnesota (4-1-1). Craig Berube said Emery's start was scheduled: "We try to stick to the plan as much as we can" . . . The Flyers switched time zones for the second time in this trip with their late-night flight to Detroit, where they play tomorrow . . . Claude Giroux was a perfect 8-for-8 in the first period in faceoffs . . . Ryan Suter logged an incredible 28:48 of ice time, which is actually below his season average of 29:46.