Flyers end trip with loss; eliminated from playoff race early

The Philadelphia Flyers, their roster weakened by trades and injuries, finished their five-game road trip with a 1-4 record after Tuesday’s 4-1 loss in Minnesota.

The defeat officially eliminated the Flyers (21-35-11) from the playoff race, though that has been a foregone conclusion for a while. They have missed the playoffs in two straight years for the first time since 1992-93 and 1993-94.

Philly was outscored, 23-16, during the trip, and the highlight was a 5-2 win over St. Louis that ended its 13-game road losing streak.

The Flyers have lost 16 of their last 17 road games, while Minnesota (41-20-4) has won its last seven games, all at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild are 12-0-1 against Metropolitan Division teams.

Here are five observations:

1. Left winger Noah Cates was impressive in his NHL debut.

Cates, 23, a former Minnesota-Duluth standout who signed with the Flyers on Sunday, had a strong NHL debut. In fact, he looked like their best player.

Playing near where he grew up, the Minnesota native led the Flyers in hits (3), takeaways (3), and also had shot attempts (5). Cates starred at Minnesota-Duluth and was a member of an NCAA champion as a freshman and on the US Olympic team this year.

“For a first game, it’s a game that builds trust from a coach and obviously from his teammates as well,” interim coach Mike Yeo said. “Real good debut for him.”

Cates, who played on a line with Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett, was robbed from the doorstep by Marc-Andre Fleury in the opening minute of the third period.

The left winger had his family, friends, relatives, and college teammates at the game. There were also numerous youth players who showed their support for Cates.

“Having them there with signs supporting me was obviously pretty special,” said Cates, who added his nerves “kind of went away” once he got his first shift out of the way. “I was that kid back in the day.”

2. The Flyers’ special teams weren’t so special on the trip.

The Flyers went 1 for 13 on the power play during the five-game trip, though they did get a third-period PP goal from Frost. For Frost, it was his first goal in 28 games; he hadn’t connected since Dec. 30 in San Jose.

Opponents were 3 for 11 on the power play during the five-game trip through Detroit, St. Louis, Colorado, Nashville, and Minnesota.

In a twist, the Flyers had defensemen Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov on the same power play late in the game.

Here’s hoping defenseman Ronnie Attard, who has a powerful and accurate shot, is also given power-play time when he joins the team later this week.

Kirill “The Thrill” Kaprizov (37th goal) struck from the left circle on Minnesota’s first power play, giving the Wild a 2-0 lead with 3:37 left in the first. About two minutes earlier, Matt Dumba finished off a slick passing play by scoring on a sequence started by James van Riemsdyk’s turnover.

3. Nick Seeler doesn’t back down from anyone.

Seeler has quietly been an effective and fearless third-pairing defenseman for the Philadelphia Flyers. He had his third fight this season, getting into an entertaining heavyweight bout with Nicolas Deslauriers, who had a 19-pound advantage (220 to 201) and won a split decision. Deslauriers threw more punches, but Seeler bloodied his opponent’s face. Seeler’s face was effervescent.

The fight sparked the Flyers as they dominated the next few minutes before the Wild regrouped and took control of the game.

4. The Wild made the Flyers look like an AHL team in the second period.

Minnesota wasn’t on a power play for the entire second period. But it seemed that way because the puck was in the Flyers’ defensive end for most of the frame.

The Wild had a 13-4 shots domination and outscored the Flyers, 2-0, in the period, one in which they repeatedly cycled the puck with little resistance.

Martin Jones gave up a fat rebound to Jordan Greenway on Minnesota’s first goal in the second, and Kevin Fiala scored from a crazy angle to make it 4-0 late in the period.

5. The Flyers can build off a strong third period.

Philly outworked, outshot (17-8), and outscored (1-0) Minnesota in the third period. Hey, you look for any glimpse of hope in this Lost Season.

The Flyers could have had three third-period goals if not for Fleury’s superb goaltending. He’s 37, but still going strong.

“I give the guys credit for the third period. They could have packed it in,” Yeo said. “They kept playing for each other, kept playing hard, and made a push. … It’s tough to sit here and lose and point to positives, but that’s got to be our mindset — and there were positives in that game tonight.”

The Flyers will try to build off their strong finish in their next game, Saturday against another powerful team, Toronto.

breakaways

Carter Hart missed the game because of what Yeo called a nagging injury. He is expected to be able to play Saturday against visiting Toronto. … Felix Sandstrom was recalled from the Phantoms and served as Jones’ backup. … Travis Sanheim turned 27 Tuesday. … Max Willman, who had goals in his last two games, was a healthy scratch as interim coach Mike Yeo went with a bigger lineup against the physical Wild.

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