A 37-save performance by rookie goaltender Carter Hart keyed a 2-1 win
for the Philadelphia Flyers over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The victory put an end to Philadelphia's eight-game winless streak since the NHL's holiday break. The Stars' road woes continued as they dropped to 9-13-2 away from the American Airlines Center.
The Flyers got goals from Travis Konecny (11th) and a James van Riemsdyk tally (7th) on a delayed Dallas penalty. JVR (9th), Radko Gudas (9th), Claude Giroux (34th) and Sean Couturier (17th) earned one assist apiece. Both goals came in the second period.
Hart flirted with the first shutout of his NHL career for 57-plus minutes. He was square to the shooters all night, tracking pucks extremely well and clean with most of his saves. Hart got a piece of a Jamie Benn goal (18th) from the slot but not quite enough. He then slammed the door with Dallas pressing heavily for an equalizer. Hart's best saves came on a first period chance for Tyler Pitlick, a second period play where John Klingberg pinched in and had a great look from the slot and a third period stop on a Klingberg power play shot with Benn screening in front of him.
"I don’t know if it’s easier sometimes to get into a rhythm. You just have to prepare the same and take things one at a time," Hart said.
"[Shutouts] are nice but at the same time it just feels good to be back in the win column. To get a win here and play the last few games, the boys have battled hard and some bounces just haven’t gone our way. We deserved a better fate in some of our previous games so tonight we just kept chipping away at it."
Anton Khudobin deserved a better fate as he stopped 20 of 22 shots in a losing cause. While not a high volume, he faced a very high difficulty, especially successive 2-on-1 and 3-on-1 saves on third period shorthanded chances for Couturier set up by Giroux and then a 2-on-0 breakaway in which he stopped Konecny off a pass from van Riemsdyk.
"The Flyers typically come out strong and it’s a team that can score goals, they feel good about themselves and if they don’t score goals, they tend to not stick with the process sometimes. So, the first 10 minutes was important we didn’t allow them a lot of offense, we did that, but we didn’t create much ourselves," Stars head coach Jim Montgomery said.
After a scoreless first period without much flow and a lot of whistles, Philly got on the board first at 1:23 of the second period. It started with a simple enough play -- a routine shot by Gudas from the right side boards with JVR going to the net. The shot produced a rebound, which van Riemsdyk claimed. Simultaneously, Konecny beat Stars rookie defenseman Miro Heiskanen off the wall and went to the net. JVR made a nice drop feed to Konecny, who angled his stick to tip the puck upstairs and into the net.
The lead grew to 2-0 at 8:51 of the middle frame. On a delayed Dallas penalty, Giroux put the puck at net from the left circle with JVR in screening/deflection position off to the side. JVR tipped the puck, when then went off Khudobin and pinballed off the skate of defenseman Esa Lindell into the net. The triple deflection was a bit of self-made puck luck.
"JVR is a proud player and I think somewhere along the way he has kind of gotten lost in the shuffle, expectations for himself coming in here free agent signing and getting hurt the second game. That probably put him behind the 8-ball, never really got on a roll," Flyers head coach Scott Gordon said.
"From our conversation [earlier this week after JVR was temporarily moved down to the fourth line], I just thought there were more opportunities to get in to better areas and I really felt that he did an exceptional job with that last night and the goal aside, I felt like he was around on the puck more and I thought he had better use of his stick defending and being more aggressive in the right areas."
The lead held into the third period, when Dallas brought heavy pressure (18 shots) but also was prone to counterattacks from which Khudobin bailed them out of trouble. Hart wasn't quite able to get his shutout as Philly was unable to clear their zone and Benn got open in the middle slot to score. The assists went to Tyler Seguin (26th) and Klingberg (15th).
The Flyers momentarily thought they had re-established a two goal lead as Voracek crashed the net to sweep home a second-chance opportunity set up by Oskar Lindblom. Stars coach Jim Montgomery challenged the goal, which was quickly disallowed upon review: a pretty easy call on this particular play as Voracek had knocked into Khudobin.
The Stars made a heavy push at 6-on-5 with Khudobin pulled. Hart stepped up one more time, and the final buzzer sounded.
"I don't think we had a lot of Grade A changes," Montgomery said. "I thought we skated well we just weren’t doing enough, not enough players were having an impact."
The Flyers went 0-for-2 on the power play and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill (Dallas, which has only yielded one shorthanded goal this season was very lucky to have that number hold). Thursday's game was a rare night where the Flyers lost more faceoffs than they won (28-for-59, 47 percent).
Gudas was credited with a game high six hits, as well as four shots on goal (seven attempts) and two blocks. Ivan Provorov led the Flyers with 27:23 of ice time, while Klingberg logged 27:15 for the Stars. Christian Folin blocked seven shots.
"I didn’t talk about the second period after the first period or anything about what we don’t want to do. I did talk to the team this morning and talked about when you’re playing well and when you’re having success and the wins are piling up, you know what are the right things to do. There’s a tendency to be consistent and to recognize the situations because you’ve been through it," Gordon said.
"I feel, whether you’re up a goal, whether you’re down a goal, you have to play the same way. It’s a 60 minute game and we’re playing like the game is going to be over after we get scored against in the next shift if we don’t score. Whether you’re up one, down one, up 2, down 2, just play the same game and know there’s a lot of game left. That’s what I talked to the team about today that we have the same mindset and play the full 60 minutes and stay with that structure with our system. Have the right mindset in different situations, were we perfect, no, there was certainly more consistency than what we’ve had."
The Flyers will have a noon practice on Friday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees before heading the Newark for a Saturday afternoon tilt against the New Jersey Devils. The Stars return home to host the St. Louis Blues at the American Airlines Center on Sunday evening.