The Stars played much better Thursday night in Philadelphia, but it wasn’t enough to halt their winless streak, which hit four games with a 4-2 loss to the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
“The team played hard,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We missed some point blank opportunities and there are probably a couple our goaltender would like back, but if we play like that night after night, we’ll win.”
But the Stars couldn’t find a way to win on this night and lost ground to Phoenix in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Coyotes defeated Florida, 2-1, Thursday night, pulling four points ahead of the Stars, who still have one game in hand.
The Stars outshot Philadelphia 35-29 in Thursday’s game, but the Flyers took a 2-0 lead in the first period and the Stars could never overcome that deficit. They cut the Flyers’ lead to one goal twice (2-1 and 3-2), but each time the Flyers were able to extend it.
Tim Thomas got the start in goal for the Stars and stopped 25 of 29 shots, but only two of four in the third period when the Stars were pushing for the equalizer and the Flyers increased the lead to two goals twice.
“I really feel bad for the guys with the game that they played,” said Thomas. “Sometimes that is hockey, but I can guarantee that I am going to be better for the guys moving forward from here.”
The Stars had several quality chances, especially in the second period, but Flyers goaltender Steve Mason was superb, making 33 saves including several impressive ones. It was the fourth straight win for Philadelphia, which is 11-2-1 over its last 14 games.
“Tonight Mase made a couple unbelievable saves and kept us in the game, and that’s key. Everything comes together,” said Flyers defenseman Mark Streit.
“You’ve got to give Mason a lot of credit,” said Ruff. “We could have built some momentum. He made a couple of timely saves.”
The Stars played well to start the game, but the Flyers scored two goals in less than three minutes to take a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
After Claude Giroux won an offensive zone draw, Streit scored off a shot from the point to put the Flyers up 1-0 at the 10:21 mark.
Two minutes later Stars forward Ryan Garbutt headed to the penalty box for elbowing and the Flyers cashed in when Wayne Simmonds put a rebound past Thomas to make it a 2-0 game at 13:21 of the first.
“We would prefer a better start, obviously,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “To come in tied or better out of the first would have been nice, but I thought we fought pretty hard in the second and third.”
The Stars had a lot of pressure in the second and Mason was sharp, making big saves on Erik Cole and then stops on Alex Chiasson and Benn with the Stars on a five-on-three power play just past the midway point of the period.
But the Stars finally broke through, scoring on the five-on-four portion of that power play when Tyler Seguin gave the puck to Benn in the slot and the Stars captain drove the net and slipped the puck past Mason to make it a 2-1 game with 7:12 remaining in the period.
The Flyers extended the lead to 3-1 with 7:39 left in the third when Simmonds scored off the rush, beating Thomas with a shot from the top of the right circle.
“He hit the seven-hole on me. That’s a save that I should make,” Thomas said. “The team really needed it at that time.”
“I just tried to fire it quick,” said Simmonds. “I just crossed the middle and I tried to go against the grain and I caught him right in between his arm.”
The Stars answered 30 seconds later when a Seguin shot hit the post, rebounded off the end boards and ended up in front of the net, where Benn tapped it past Mason to make it a 3-2 game with 7:09 remaining.
But the Flyers sealed the win when Michael Raffl scored on a breakaway, backhanding the puck past Thomas with 3:12 remaining and sending the Stars home with an 0-3-0 mark on their three-game road trip.
The Stars return home to take on Ottawa Saturday afternoon at American Airlines Center.
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