The giddiness of the Flyers’ modest three-game unbeaten streak to start the season has given way to concern after a lackluster 4-1 loss to the sagging Dallas Stars on Saturday night.
This wasn’t a must-win for the Flyers. It was more like a better-not-lose.
And yet they lost and are now below .500.
Dallas came into the Wells Fargo Center wobbling with a 1-7-1 record and on the second leg of playing on back-to-back nights.
The Flyers were only 2-2-1, but they were in a good mood after hopping the globe for their first five games. They slept in their own beds the last couple of nights and even scored a goal in the first minute.
Coach Alain Vigneault readily admits that he’s still getting to know his team and which combinations work best. The Flyers’ power play was a large part of the problem. They had 6 minutes, 49 seconds of advantage time and got only six shots.
The Flyers outshot the Stars, 39-16, which was what Vigneault was focused on postgame.
“We had a pretty dominating performance, but right now we’re having a tough time finishing,” the coach said. “It’s like a golfer who [hits the green] in regulation, but can’t putt.”
The yips are running throughout the locker room. James van Riemsdyk had four quality scoring chances, but converted none. He played pretty well, but is still waiting to score his first goal of the season despite 24 shots over the last three games.
“Certainly, it’s frustrating,” said van Riemsdyk, who had nine shots against Dallas. “Obviously, I’m here to score goals and it’s not going in. I just have to stick with it. I’m getting good looks, but unfortunately you don’t get much credit for good looks. They’re bound to go in if I keep getting chances like this.”
Sean Couturier opened the scoring by finishing a nice tic-tac-toe play into an open net 43 seconds into the first period. Couturier got his second goal of the season and Travis Konecny and Claude Giroux got the assists in a rush that was set up by a solid puck win by Shayne Gostisbehere in the defensive zone.
And that was it for Flyers scoring.
Chris Stewart (6-foot-2, 242) fought with Dallas defenseman Jamie Oleksiak (6-7, 255) in a heavyweight bout. It briefly energized a crowd that was a little salty after watching the Flyers give up two goals in the period.
Red-hot Finnish winger Roope Hintz danced around Matt Niskanen for the first goal and defenseman Esa Lindell scored on the power play off a terrific pass from Denis Gurianov.
It was Gurianov who drew the penalty to give the Stars the advantage when he forced Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim to take a holding penalty by keeping his skates moving.
Did we mention that Dallas came into the game just 1-for-25 on the power play on the season? Sigh.
Remember these lost two points come April.
The Flyers went through a stretch of 7:32 in the first period without a shot on goal. The Stewart fight gave them no juice.
They had the better of the chances in the second period but couldn’t get anything past Ben Bishop, who made 38 saves.
As busy as Bishop was, Flyers goalie Carter Hart had very little work come his way. He saw four shots on goal in the final period. Corey Perry beat him with a backhander to make it 3-1 and Miro Heiskanen added an empty netter to cap the scoring.
Perry’s goal was the Stars second shot Hart saw in nearly 23 minutes of play.
“It can be tough to find a way to stay in the game, but I’m a professional. I have to find a way to stay focused for the whole game,” Hart said glumly. “No matter what happens.”
Dallas had five shots on goal total in the final two periods and still won. That’s almost impossible.
Two scary moments: Couturier crashed into the Dallas net and Ivan Provorov nearly took a spill when he tripped over a broken stick. Fortunately, neither player was injured.
Those were about the only breaks the Flyers did get on a night when they dominated everywhere but the scoreboard. They won 63 percent of the faceoffs, which helped them control play. What did JVR say? There’s no reward for “almost?”
“It’s easy to take the positives, but at the end of the day, moral victories don’t help you,” Stewart said. “[Dallas] was a desperate hockey team. They came in here and wanted two points. And they got it. We’ve got to match the other team’s desperation, especially this early in the season.”
Otherwise, golf season will get here a lot quicker than any of them want.