Roughed-up: Wild spanked 6-1 by Flyers
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It took Patrick O'Sullivan almost 35 minutes, and a little over seven years, to get his first goal as a member of the Minnesota Wild.
Sadly, that was about the only pre-Thanksgiving highlight for the local hockey club, in an ugly 6-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.
O'Sullivan, who was drafted by the Wild in 2003, but traded (as part of the Pavol Demitra deal in 2006) before ever skating with the big club, returned to the fold on Wednesday after being claimed off waivers from Carolina. His second period flip of the puck in front of the Flyers net, which deflected off Philadelphia defenseman Andrej Meszaros and into the net, was the 56th of O'Sullivan's career, but his first that didn't come as a member of the Kings, Oilers or Hurricanes.
"He scores a goal and made a couple other plays where he created some offense," said Wild coach Todd Richards. "It's going to take a little bit for him to get a true feeling of how we want to play and his teammates and get a read off them, but my first reaction is he was fine."
Playing on a line with Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Cullen, O'Sullivan gave a few glimpses of his offensive potential, which will be badly needed if Guillaume Latendresse takes a long time to come back from hip surgery, and if the Wild defense keeps surrendering goals like it has lately. For Clutterbuck, the highlight of the night was delivering a team-record 12 hits for the evening.
"We knew there were some things we had to tighten up on and get better at," Clutterbuck said. "Even when we were winning games we were getting out-shot and said this stuff was going to come back and bite us sooner or later. We've just got to take care of the puck. It comes down to that."
The Wild has now given up 11 goals in the past two games, and after going nearly a full period without a shot on goal at one point on Wednesday, does not look like a team with the offense to make up for those defensive-zone shortcomings. Goalie Niklas Backstrom had 22 saves, but gave up five or more goals in back-to-back starts for the first time in his career.
It was one of those snowy slow traffic nights where, before many fans had even settled into their seats, the Flyers had built a 2-0 lead, scoring on two of their first four shots. By the time the final horn blew, many of those seats were empty again, and boos rained down on the home team.
The first intermission came abruptly, and prematurely, with just under two minutes to play, when a dump-in slap shot by Claude Giroux shattered a pane of glass in front of section 102. Arena maintenance folks cleaned up the mess, and they played the remaining 1:57 after the ice was resurfaced.
Trailing 3-1 in the third, the Wild had a power play and looked poised to get back into the game, before former St. Cloud State star Adreas Nodl scored on a short-handed breakaway for the Flyers. From there, it just got out of hand.
"Philadelphia is a very, very good team with some great players up front and on the back end, and I thought we were playing with them," Richards said. "A 3-1 game and we probably have two or three really good chances on the power play. If you score a goal there it's a one-goal game and you've got 12 minutes of hockey. They scored the short-handed goal and that was the back-breaker."
Sheppard Update: Injured Wild forward James Sheppard spoke to members of the media Wednesday, for the first time since he suffered a serious knee injury in a Colorado ATV accident just before training camp.
"I'm happy to finally be able to talk to everyone, and for the fans, to apologize for waiting so long," he said. "This is necessary for me to get back to what I want to be to contribute to this team. I appreciate your patience."
He said he's been working hard on the left knee, getting his range of motion back using an underwater treadmill. He said he expects to play before the end of the season. Picked by the Wild in the opening round of the 2006 draft, ninth overall, Sheppard has 11 goals in 224 games.