PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Michal Neuvirth called it one of the best saves of his life, and it helped bail out the Philadelphia Flyers.
Neuvirth made two stellar saves late, including a highlight-reel stop with 1.6 seconds remaining, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period, lifting the Flyers past the Minnesota Wild 3-2 on Thursday night.
Coach Dave Hakstol went with his backup goalie for the second straight contest, and Neuvirth made 24 saves to improve to 14-7-4. None was bigger than his stop on Charlie Coyle just before the final buzzer.
Coyle took a cross-ice feed and shot toward an empty net, but Neuvirth dived and extended his stick to stop the puck just as it appeared to be crossing the goal line before covering it with his glove. The save was confirmed after an officials’ review.
“It’s got to be one of the best saves I’ve ever made,” Neuvirth said. “Never give up on the puck.”
Hakstol added: “A heck of a save at a great time in the game.”
Coyle couldn’t believe the puck didn’t cross the line.
“That’s crazy,” he said. “It’s a game of inches. Just a great save.”
Mark Streit and Sam Gagner also had goals for Philadelphia, which opened a six-game homestand by winning for just the fourth time in 11 games. The Flyers opened play five points out of a playoff spot, but were also behind five teams.
Thomas Vanek had a goal and an assist and Mikael Granlund also scored for the Wild, who dropped their second straight while falling to 4-2 under interim coach John Torchetti. Minnesota began Thursday four points behind Colorado for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“I liked our effort,” Torchetti said. “I just think their goalie was really good tonight. He made a couple of really big saves. I think we should’ve been playing into overtime.”
Bellemare scored with 16:39 remaining after Chris VandeVelde won a battle for the puck behind the net. His wraparound try failed, but Bellemare dived for the rebound and poked the puck high over Devan Dubnyk. It was Bellemare’s fourth goal of the season and first since Dec. 8.
“Just a grinding, hard-working goal,” Hakstol said.
Neuvirth preserved the victory with his two tremendous saves. The first one came with five minutes left when he extended his left leg completely to deny Granlund’s short-side wrist shot while the Wild were on a power play.
“He’s been rock solid throughout the season,” Hakstol said.
The Flyers coach wanted to stick with the lineup that lost 3-1 at Carolina on Tuesday, a game in which Philadelphia dropped despite outshooting the Hurricanes 37-18.
“Due to his save and a lot of good, hard play in front of him we were able to change that outcome,” Hakstol said.
Minnesota outscored the Flyers 2-1 in the second period.
Vanek tied it at 1 with a power-play goal just over two minutes into the period when he deflected Jared Spurgeon’s pass past Neuvirth. The goal marked nine straight road games in which the Wild have scored on the man-advantage.
Streit’s wrist shot at the end of a choppy power play in which the Flyers barely managed to get the puck in the offensive zone beat Dubnyk to put Philadelphia back on top with 14:14 left in the period.
Granlund answered 7 ½ minutes later when he got the rebound of Vanek’s slap shot from the point and scored on a backhander.
Dubnyk went down with 4:34 left in the period when Jakub Voracek crashed into him while on a rush. The Wild goalie stayed on the ice for a couple of minutes but got to his feet and remained in the game, getting a pat on the pads from Voracek.
Gagner’s fourth goal of the season gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead with 1:15 left in the first period. Philadelphia capitalized when Ryan Suter turned the puck over behind the net. Brayden Schenn intercepted Suter’s pass and got the puck in front to Gagner, who batted it low past Dubnyk’s outstretched glove.
Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere failed to record a point for the second straight game after having his 15-game point streak snapped on Tuesday.
NOTES: Flyers C Claude Giroux (upper body) missed his third straight game. … Wild LW Zach Parise (upper body), F Jason Zucker (concussion) and D Jonas Bodin (foot) all were out with injuries. … The Wild travel to Washington for the second game of a back-to-back against the Capitals on Friday night. … Philadelphia swept the season series. The Flyers also beat the Wild 4-3 in overtime on Jan. 7 in Minnesota.