ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA (TICKER) —While focusing on helping his team lower its goals-against average, coach Ken Hitchcock failed to tell the Philadelphia Flyers they need to score occasionally.
Blanked three times in their last seven games, including Monday’s 1-0 home loss to Minnesota, the Flyers failed to score for the ninth time this season, one shy of the team record.
“I think what you’re seeing now is the way it’s been all season,” said Hitchcock, whose team has scored just eight goals in the last nine games. “Some people are not stepping up the way I know they can, and that’s what bothers me. It doesn’t have to be the same guys every night, but some of these guys have to step it up or we’ll play like this the rest of the year.”
Two days after Manny Fernandez turned aside 30 shots at Philadelphia, Roloson made 10 saves in the first and third periods around 11 stops in the second for his second shutout of the season and the ninth of his career.
“Our goalie was good,” Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. “The defensemen were perfect, our goalie was perfect. Our small players on the boards, they were just great. They handled the puck well. All that is all part of it.”
The back-to-back blankings are the first in the Wild’s three-year history and marked the second time this season the Flyers have been shut out in consecutive games.
“The last two games, the defensemen were at their best,” Lemaire said. “We have a crew that is focused and I wish we would keep going. I never thought they would play as well as this. They’re nearly perfect. I never thought they would get there as a group.”
“We’ve been down before and we’ve come back. We’ll bounce back after this one,” Flyers right wing Mark Recchi said. “We have to compete harder and we have to do it on both ends of the ice. But we have to start scoring some goals and take the pressure off our goaltenders because they’re not the reason we’re losing. But we have to have a better team effort.”
Cliff Ronning gave Roloson all the offense he needed in the second period, netting a power-play goal, and Walz added some insurance early in the third with his ninth of the season.
“It’s a system, but we’ve got quick players,” Ronning said. “We’ve got guys that can skate. We’re underdogs. We have to win games to earn respect. On paper, we’re not as strong as some teams.”
After a scoreless first period, the Wild cashed in on their second power-play chance to take the lead.
With defenseman Eric Weinrich in the penalty box for slashing, Ronning grabbed the rebound of defenseman Filip Kuba’s shot low in the slot and beat goaltender Robert Esche high to the glove side at 14:38 for his 10th goal.
“We competed hard in the first period,” Hitchcock said. “They turned it up in the second period and we didn’t, and it seemed to get worse from there. The last 10 minutes of the second period seemed to be the difference. They wanted it more than we did.”
A member of the Flyers for two games in 1991-92, Walz took a pass from Antti Laaksonen at the blue line and skated down the slot before wristing a shot between Esche’s pads at 5:55 of the third to seal the victory.
“Well, to be honest with you, I knew (Jeremy) Roenick had gone off the ice and I was going to change,” Walz said. “But I saw that one of their defensemen had changed and there might be a seam in the middle. To be honest with you, I was really out of gas. It was all I had to get enough wood to get it through his five-hole.
“You’ve got to thank (Wild goaltending consultant) Bob Mason. Before the game, he mentioned if we ever get a chance on a breakaway, we should five-hole it.”
Moving into a fourth-place tie with Detroit in the Western Conference, Minnesota got big saves from Roloson early in the first and third periods.
With 1:47 gone in the first, Roloson grabbed Eric Chouinard’s snap shot from the left circle that was ticketed for the top right corner of the net. After defenseman Brad Brown lost the puck to Michal Handzus 85 seconds into the third, the 33-year-old goalie denied the center’s backhander from the doorstep.