PHILADELPHIA - The Dallas Stars’ road woes continue.
A trip to the city of Brotherly Love resulted in the Stars’ leaving with a figurative black eye, as the Philadelphia Flyers dominated them in all facets of the game to win 6-3 Tuesday night at the Wachovia Center.
The Stars have now lost five straight on the road by a combined score of 21-6, getting shut out in two of those, and are just 1-8-3 in their last 12 contests outside of Texas. Overall, Dallas, which entered the day tied with Minnesota for 10th in Western Conference standings, four points back of LA in eighth, is just 1-5-0 over their last six outings, struggling at both ends of the rink, getting outscored 23-10.
“With every effort that we have like tonight, we’re putting ourselves in a deeper hole,” said captain Brenden Morrow. “It’s been about a month or so since we’ve won on the road, so we’ve all got to dig in. We’ve got a few guys down, but we’ve got to muster up some confidence and win some games here.”
“It’s a tough league and it’s hard to win on the road,” added Stars center Brad Richards. “We’ve got to find a way to win. We’ve got to out-will some teams in certain times. There’s a lot of cliches, I don’t have one to sum it all up, but we’re finding ways to make it hard on ourselves right now.”
Meanwhile, the Flyers keep rolling along, as the club is now 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, averaging over four goals a game over that span.
Offensively, Steve Ott scored two goals in the third period to make the final score look a little more respectable, and James Neal also found the back of the net.
After Neal tied the game 1-1 early in the second period, the game unraveled for the Stars, as they surrendered four over the next 12 minutes, including a crushing short-handed goal that made it 3-1 at 7:53.
“We did lose our focus, ended up giving a shorthanded goal and giving extra power plays because of the loss in focus, and that’s something that’s got to change,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said. “It wasn’t that way in the first half of the season, but since we’ve turned the corner on the second half, we have to admit that we’ve lost a little bit of focus and we have to grab it back immediately.”
One game after an outstanding performance in which he made 39 saves but still lost to Columbus, Marty Turco was back in goal and after a strong first period, got bombarded in the second and ended up getting pulled after allowing five goals on 19 shots in 33 minutes of action.
Backup Alex Auld came in and stopped eight-of-nine shots in relief.
Despite the defeat, Crawford still found some positives amidst the wreckage.
“As much as it’s a loss, in a real funny way, it could be a real catalyst for us and I’m hoping it’s going to be a catalyst for our team,” Crawford said. “We made a commitment after the second period to stop blaming the referees and I think that’s a big step.
“We had some really good parts to our game tonight. We had good performances from Steve Ott, Jere Lehtinen, by Toby Petersen, I thought Robidas played a whale of a game, I thought Niskanen played a little bit better, I thought Wandell and Benn were pretty good, but we didn’t get good performances from other guys.”
Trailing 1-0 heading into the second, the Stars came out the locker room with guns-a-blazing, and tied it up just 56 seconds in on Neal’s team-leading 19th goal of the season. After Loui Eriksson poked the puck away from Chris Pronger at the Dallas blue line, he chased down the loose puck in the neutral zone and swiped a pass over to the charging Neal in the middle. Coming in on a breakaway, Neal fired a quick snap shot that beat Flyers netminder Michael Leighton on the stick side.
Philadelphia answered quickly, though, as Princeton product Darroll Powe’s eighth of the year restored the Flyer lead at 2:32. James van Riemsdyk’s first wrap-around attempt at the right goalpost was poke-checked off his stick by Turco, but van Riemsdyk recovered quickly and fed a quick pass out front, finding Powe, who drilled it home.
Consecutive power plays gave Dallas another chance to even it up, but they were unable to capitalize. Instead, things began to unravel, as Kimmo Timonen scored a short-handed goal at 7:53 to increase the Stars’ deficit to two. On a 3-on-1 rush into the Stars’ zone, Ian Laperriere fed it over to Timonen, who held it and then whipped a wrist shot from the left face-off circle over Turco’s shoulder.
“We knew coming in they’d take their opportunity short-handed,” Morrow said. “Any time you get scored on while on the power play, it’s a tough one. Timonen jumped into the play and made a good shot.”
Things went from bad to worse when Morrow earned a high-sticking penalty at 8:55 when he inadvertently clipped Leighton in the mask, then picked up another two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct for arguing the call.
That power play led to Philadelphia’s fourth goal, off a fluke bounce, credited to Claude Giroux at 12:01. Controlling the puck in the left corner, Giroux attempted a cross-crease pass to Mike Richards, but it pinballed off the skate of Dallas defenseman Mark Fistric in front and slid between Turco’s pads.
With the Stars reeling, the Flyers struck again just 59 seconds later, as Laperriere finished another odd-man rush for his third goal of the season. Powe made the cross-ice pass to the charging Laperriere, whose one-timer beat Turco past the glove for a commanding 5-1 Philadelphia lead.
That goal also signaled the end of Turco’s night, as Crawford opted to pull him and insert Auld in his place.
“We gave them every opportunity to take over the game, and they did,” Brad Richards said of the second period. “They’re a good team, in their building, they’re probably going to do it.”
Down by four entering the final period, the Stars got an early scoring chance 1:35 in, as rookie Jamie Benn had two point-blank shots on goal in front, but Leighton denied him both times.
The Flyers rubbed some more salt in the wounds at 10:55 as Simon Gagne scored his sixth goal of the year. As Philadelphia rushed into the Dallas zone on a 3-on-2, Daniel Briere fed a cross-ice pass to Gagne, whose wrist shot from the slot beat Auld past the blocker.
Dallas refused to quit, and two goals from Ott made the score look a little more respectable. The first one came with 7:13 remaining, when Jere Lehtinen’s slap shot from the high slot was stopped by Leighton, but Ott managed to pull the rebound to his backhand and pop it in.
Ott struck again on another rebound goal with 3:54 left, pulling the Stars to within three. After Leighton made a pad stop on Stephane Robidas’ slap shot from the right point, the huge rebound spit out to Ott in the slot, and Otter buried it for his ninth goal of the season.
“We played hard in the third, but it was too little too late,” Morrow said.
Early penalties on Ott and rookie defenseman Maxime Fortunus put the Stars on the penalty kill early against the Flyers’ third-ranked power play unit, and they almost weathered the storm. They killed the first power play, thanks in part to Turco’s save on Giroux’s re-direction in front of Mike Richards’ wrist shot.
But with just seven seconds left in Fortunus’ high-sticking minor, Philadelphia broke through for a 1-0 lead at 6:08. Turco stopped a slap shot from the point by Matt Carle, but Scott Hartnell pounced on the loose rebound and managed to chip it over Turco’s pad and it rolled just over the goal line for his 11th goal.
The Flyers were outshooting Dallas 7-0 at that point, and gradually began to find their rhythm. Rookie Tom Wandell had their first scoring chance just past the midway point of the period, collecting a pass from the right corner by Benn before unleashing a quick wrist shot in front, but Leighton made a nice save.
Philadelphia nearly went up 2-0 with 6:14 left in the first when Jeff Carter picked up a loose puck in the right circle, sped in and lifted a quick snap shot that glanced off Turco’s shoulder and then pinged off the crossbar and bounced out the other side of the crease.
The period ended with Dallas trailing just 11-8 in shots.
The Stars conclude their three-game road trip Thursday in Montreal against Bob Gainey’s Canadiens (6:30 pm start, FSSW). Montreal started the day 22-21-4 and are currently tied with Ottawa and the New York Islanders for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Stars just hope this can be a big bounce-back game for them.
“We got a lot of confidence in this group, we know we haven’t played our best hockey here in the last week,” Crawford said. “On the other side of it, knowing that we haven’t played our best, it gives us some solace, knowing that if we get our act back together, we’ll get right back into the thick of things.”
- Ott snapped a six-game pointless skid with his two goals. He also delivered a team-high four hits and somehow registered a +1 plus/minus rating.
- Neal’s goal also broke a five-game point drought.
- Lehtinen’s assist on Ott’s first goal was the 266th of his career, all with Dallas, moving him past Darryl Sydor into sole possession of 10th place on the franchise’s all-time list. It also gives Lehts three points (one goal, two assists) in his last four games and nine points (two goals, seven assists) in his last 13 outings.
- With his assist on Neal’s goal, Eriksson now has nine points (six goals, three assists) in his last eight games.
- Robidas’ assist snapped a five-game pointless streak. Once again, he led the squad in ice time, logging 25:56
- Defenseman Matt Niskanen skated in his 200th NHL game, returning to the lineup after being a healthy scratch Sunday night in Columbus. His assist on Ott’s second goal gives him his first point since Nov. 23, a span of 21 games played.
- Benn led the team with five shots on goal.
- Center Mike Modano played his 1,433rd career regular season game, moving him past Mike Gartner into sole possession of 20th place on the NHL’s all-time list. Next up on the list is Tim Horton at 1,445.
- The Dallas power play continues to sputter, going 0-for-5 on the night. That leaves the unit 0-for-22 over their last six games.
- The Flyers’ power play unit went 2-for-4, marking the fifth game out of the last six that the Stars have surrendered at least one man-advantage goal. It also leaves Philadelphia’s scorching-hot PP unit 9-for-19 over their last five contests.
- The loss leaves the Stars 2-4-6 in Philly since moving to Dallas in 1993.
Wrist shot -
1 - 0 PHI
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1 - 1 Tie
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James van Riemsdyk
2 - 1 PHI
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3 - 1 PHI
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4 - 1 PHI
Snap shot -
5 - 1 PHI
Snap shot -
6 - 1 PHI
Backhand shot -
6 - 2 PHI
Wrist shot -
6 - 3 PHI
Delaying Game-Puck over glass