The Stars had no problem counter-punching on Monday night. It was delivering the original jab that gave them difficulties.
Dallas was able to come back and tie the Philadelphia Flyers three times, but couldn't do it a fourth in a 4-3 loss at Wachovia Center. The defeat was the depleted Stars third straight, and second consecutive one in regulation.
"This is kind of where we are right now," coach Dave Tippett soberly said. "Our execution is poor, simple as that."
Mike Modano scored twice, and Landon Wilson also tallied for Dallas, which was without four regulars when Steve Ott was added to the growing injury list earlier in the day after breaking his hand on Saturday against Anaheim.
The Flyers, winners of five straight, never trailed after Scottie Upshall scored just three minutes into a game that featured three ties.
Down by a goal late in the game, center Brad Richards nearly tied it for Dallas again when he had Philadelphia goalie Martin Biron at his mercy in tight. But in a play that sums up Dallas' frustrating season, Richards lifted the puck over the net, blowing what wound up as the Stars' best chance to send the game into overtime.
After Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn was whistled for hooking with 1:04 left in regulation, Dallas couldn't muster a shot while playing 6-on-4 with Marty Turco pulled for the extra attacker.
"We gave ourselves a chance after a bad first period," Richards said. "We just aren't making the plays we need to make right now. We have to stay with what we are trying to do, and sometimes less is more. We did a lot of good things. We kept battling back and tied the game, but we just are not getting it done right now."
Turco finished with 21 saves, and kept the game within reach when he robbed Upshall with a splendid glove save on a point-blank shot from the left circle with over two minutes to go.
Mike Knuble scored twice, and Jeff Carter popped in his league-leading 15th of the season for the surging Flyers, winners of six of their last seven.
Knuble netted the winner with just over five minutes to play in regulation, capitalizing on defenseman Doug Janik's turnover at the Dallas blueline. Mike Richards picked up the puck, skated into the lower right circle, put on the brakes and waited for Knuble to come cruising into the slot. Knuble didn't miss on his wrister that capped the entertaining game's scoring.
"We are looking for people to step up, carry the load and take advantage of chances," Tippett said. "It's one thing to get beat on a good play, but we are getting beat on giveaways and mistakes."
The Stars got out of the gate slowly, as Philadelphia peppered Turco with 14 first-period shots compared to Dallas' 5. But over the next two periods the Stars showed plenty of spunk and spark in outshooting the Flyers 20-11.
But just as Dallas was ready to seemingly break Biron, another costly giveaway or turnover would break their back.
"It's such a fine line," Modano said. "We had a bad start but we got ourselves back into the game. We keep doing innocent plays that end up finding their way into our end. We are trying to do too much, and we limit our creativity as far as puck movement."
Down 2-1 heading into the second period, the Stars tied it on Modano's goal just 2 1/2 minutes into the middle frame. Just as a penalty to Upshall had expired, Modano lofted a rebound over Biron after Loui Eriksson and Mark Parrish both got a piece of Stephane Robidas' original slap shot from the left point.
Carter restored Philadelphia's one-goal lead with 5:38 to go in the second. Janik lost control of the puck behind the goal line to Scott Hartnell, who sent a pass to Carter skating into the slot. Carter then ripped a wrist shot that eluded Turco for a 3-2 Flyers lead.
But Modano again tied it for the Stars with his second of the game and eighth of the year with less than three minutes left in the middle frame. Trevor Daley picked up a rebound behind the goal line off Brad Richards shot, and sent a slick pass to Modano in the lower portion of the slot. Modano converted, one-timing a snap shot past Biron to send the game to the third period knotted at 3.
"I had a couple of bang-bang plays where you hope for rebounds, but we obviously needed more," Modano said. "We need a full 60 minute game to dig ourselves out of this."
The Flyers opened the scoring at 3:17 with Upshall's third of the year. Standing alone in tight and to the right of Turco, Upshall easily tapped-in Joffrey Lupul's pass from the lower part of the right circle for a 1-0 Flyers lead.
Wilson tied things up with his first as a Dallas Star midway through the first. Darryl Sydor kept the puck in at the right point and sent a wrist shot toward the net where Wilson was parked. After being hit by the puck, Wilson spun around and fired a wrist shot past Biron.
"We know we are a good team and everyone believes in his group," Wilson said. "We have it in this locker room to snap out of this. I am blessed to be back here and I am doing all I can to help this group win, however I can."
Philadelphia regained its one-goal edge on Knuble's ninth of the year with four minutes to go in the first period. Knuble made a strong push to the net from the left wing before cutting in front of Turco. Daley was there to intercept the big forward, but he inadvertently swatted the puck over his goalie's shoulder.
Dallas will play Wednesday at Minnesota (7, FSN) before taking Thursday off for Thanksgiving. The Stars defeated the Wild 4-2 at the end of October.
"It's definitely frustrating," Daley said. "This is an organization that is about winning and we are not doing that right. But it is what it is, and we will work our way through this. We have to find a way to overcome and limit our mistakes."
--Defenseman Matt Niskanen was scratched for the second straight game, with Janik dressing in his place.
--Ott is expected to miss a month because of his hand injury. He joins Brenden Morrow (knee), Jere Lehtinen (upper body) and Joel Lundqvist (shoulder) in the Dallas infirmary.
--Modano is now two points shy of 1,300 for his NHL career.
--There were no penalties called in the first period, and just six overall. Toby Petersen incurred Dallas' lone infraction.
--There was only one assist credited on four of the game's first five goals.
--Richards has five points in his last five games.
--Turco came in boasting a 1.66 GAA in four lifetime starts against the Flyers.
--Dallas fell to 1-8-3 when the opponent scores first.