Image c/o Amy Irvin (38Photography)
Looking to extend their winning streak to three, the Flyers were unable to overcome some lethargic play early and stellar goaltending from Antti Niemi as they fell to the Dallas Stars 2-1 Tuesday night.
Niemi returned to the Wells Fargo Center ice for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010 and continued to haunt Flyers fans as he s the Flyers all evening. The Flyers had several point blank opportunities and peppered him throughout the night on the man advantage but could only manage one goal as the Finn made 35 saves in the win.
The Flyers started the game off quickly and were able to go on the power play a little more than a minute in after sustaining some heavy forechecking deep in the Dallas zone but came up unsuccessful . Things would slow after that as the team’s cancelled each other out with some strong neutral zone play in the first half of the period. After the Stars’ were called for a too-many-men penalty, the Flyers nearly potted the game’s first tally but Wayne Simmonds was robbed right on the doorstep by a sprawling Niemi.
Momentum soon swung toward the Stars as they soon began to sustain pressure in the Flyers’ end. The line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Patrick Sharp led the charge in the final minutes and were finally rewarded in the period’s final minute as Seguin was able to beat Mason shortside to give Dallas a 1-0 lead at intermission.
The Flyers’ dug themselves into an even deeper hole as an aggressive neutral zone play off the faceoff backfired as Benn just needed 11 seconds to extend the Stars’ lead to 2-0. Dallas would go on the rattle the first 11 shots of the period as they completed dominated even strength play, pestering the Flyers with aggressive forechecking before they could even reach their blueline.
It seemingly reached rock bottom after Ryan White took an egregious double minor for roughing and gave Dallas the chance to really bury the Flyers if were not for some strong goaltending from Mason. He made some several excellent saves and was the main reason the Stars didn’t extend their lead to four or five goals. Despite being overwhelmed, they were able to survive the onslaught still down two at intermission.
As the third period began, the Flyers began to pick up momentum to try and make the comeback as the Stars’ sat on their heels comfortable with their lead. The orange and black turned up the pressure as they tried to take advantage of a laissez-faire Dallas defense. Finally, some puck luck finally went the Flyers’ way as Sean Couturier took a bouncing puck off his body that bounced over Niemi’s shoulder into the net, cutting the lead in half.
With time ticking away, the Flyers’ were giving a huge opportunity to tie the game as Jason Spezza took a hooking penalty with little more than seven minutes left in the game. Once again, Niemi was there to lead the blockade, robbing both Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl in succession in front of the net to keep the score at 2-1. An unfortunate slashing penalty against Matt Read ultimately killed any hope of a last minute comeback as the Flyers were undermanned with Mason pulled.
Layoffs Still A Problem
Much like last year, the Flyers still can’t find a way to stay sharp after a long break between games. They looked sluggish and rusty for a good 25-30 minute stretch of game play. The bad part is the Flyers are definitely aware that this is an ongoing issue and yet still came out flat.
Mason Strong in Return
Steve Mason made his first game appearance in more than a week and played an overall strong game. People may point out the goals allowed were far from the most difficult, but without Mason’s play, this game would’ve been a blowout early. Mason still made 30 saves, including 26 in the first half of play. Welcome back, Mase.
Although the overall shot tally was in the Flyers favor, it hides the fact how badly outplayed the Flyers were played for most of the game, especially the first two periods. The Dallas forecheck just neutralized any opportunity for a clean zone exit by the Flyers and caused a few turnovers, including one that led to the first goal. At one point, Dallas out-attempted Philly 33-12, good for a 73% clip! That’s domination at its finest.
Good, Bad and the Corsi
Leading the way for the Flyers was the first line of 12-28-93. All three turned in a Corsi For % of more than 56 percent and were generating scoring chances at not only the power play, but also even-strength. On the opposite end, the entire fourth line was decimated and really had trouble dealing with the Stars attack. They have been wildly inconsistent early in the season aside from the PK. Finally, Nick Schultz was on the ice for 20 Dallas shot attempts. No need to go any further with that. (Luke Schenn return tomorrow?)