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Flyers' Mason: Loss to Stars is 'embarrassing'

Steve Mason said there was 'no desperation' on his team's part in loss to Dallas.

Steve Mason. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Steve Mason. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

STEVE MASON was on the bench. A little more than 2 minutes remained on the clock.

The Flyers were buzzing with the extra attacker - scratching and clawing to erase a one-goal deficit.

Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen would not have been surprised if the Flyers managed to send the game to overtime. That's the way it's always been against them - including this past Oct. 18 when the Flyers somehow climbed out of two different crippling third-period holes.

"That was really one of those nights that I thought, 'That's it, whatever I do doesn't work out against these guys,' " Lehtonen said. "Sometimes, it creeps into my mind when there's a little bit left in the game. Today, it didn't. I was able to focus."

Lehtonen provided a fitting nightcap to a miserable day in Philadelphia sports, downing the Flyers by a 2-1 margin to pick up his first career win against them in 13 tries dating back nearly a full decade to March 18, 2006.

Lehtonen, 31, was 0-10-2 against the Flyers with Atlanta and Dallas. Until last night, he had the longest NHL streak without a win against one particular team since New Jersey's Chico Resch went 0-13-1 against his former New York Islanders from March, 1981 to March, 1984 - according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

He could thank former Flyers netminder Antero Niittymaki for most of those losses. Niittymaki, a fellow Finn who is now 34 and a Flyers scout in Europe, feasted on Lehtonen's Thrashers, going a perfect 17-0-0 in his career.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff burst in the team's locker room after the game and let the rest of the players know that Lehtonen had finally killed the Flyers' curse.

"It's been so long," Lehtonen said. "It's nice. You sometimes think it's never going to happen. That's goaltending. Some nights, you get [the bounces]. Some nights, you don't. It seemed to always be the Philly night when pucks were bouncing in. Tonight was different."

Lehtonen, who has the sixth-most wins among active goaltenders with a 241-180-55 mark in his career, has now beaten every NHL team except his Stars. He's played just two percent of his career minutes against the Flyers, but they account for nearly five percent of his total goals against.

Recently, the Flyers have played slump-buster for opponents. Just 20 days ago, then-Sabres netminder Michal Neuvirth won his first game since November against them.

Mason called the Flyers' effort "embarrassing." He stopped 37 of 39 shots, as the Flyers allowed their highest number of shots on goal since Feb. 10, a span of 14 games.

"I don't know what to say," Mason said. "There's no desperation. It's tough to come into the room after games like that where we just needed to have a much better effort. It just wasn't there.

"I'm embarrassed. I hope everybody else is embarrassed, because we have an effort like that at home in situations where we have to come up big, and we come up empty."

The Flyers are now 2-4-2 in their last eight contests since back-to-back weekend wins over Nashville and Washington in late February. They've slid back to nine points away from Boston, out of sight of the Bruins' rearview mirror.

The only bright side now is that with each loss, they gain more pingpong balls in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes. Last night was a strategic loss in that department, getting passed by Dallas in the overall standings. The Flyers now have a six percent shot in the draft lottery for the No. 1 overall pick.

And to think, last night, Luke Schenn scored on the Flyers' first shot on Lehtonen. Given the history, with any persistent pushing, they could've made him crumble. He entered the night with just an .886 save percentage against them.

Vern Fiddler, who scored the game-winner, said the Stars avoided talking about Lehtonen's woes against the Flyers - doing so would've only increased the head games for a goaltender who was pulled in his last start.

For the Flyers, it was a game to forget in a season full of them. For Lehtonen, it was one to savor. The only bigger way to dent the Philadelphia sports psyche would've been if he broke his maiden in a Cowboys uniform.

"I'm like 1-13 now," Lehtonen said, smiling. "I still have lots of ground to climb."

Slap shots

Defenseman Nick Grossmann returned to the lineup last night after suffering an apparent concussion on Feb. 28 when he was hit in the back of the head while blocking a Rick Nash shot. Grossmann did not practice with the Flyers before returning to game action, but was cleared by doctors . . . Brandon Manning was a healthy scratch as a result . . . Line of the night came from Flyers' radio play-by-play man Tim Saunders, on Dallas' Jyrki Jokipakka: "That sounds like something you contract in a jungle" . . . Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo limped off the ice with 3:43 to play and did not take another shift.