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Recap: Special Teams Write the Story As the Stars Fall to the Flyers, 4-2

Brayden Schenn wins the Battle of the Hat-Trick Watch.

Brayden Schenn hat trick, Dec. 10, 2016
If only this had been Devin Shore.

Last year’s deadliest offense against this year’s second-hottest power play! The Battle of the Network Jeff Reese Protegés! And who will win the title of America’s Favorite Fighting Frenchman?

We could focus on all of these and more, but let’s talk about power plays – giving up too many and cashing in on too few. The last five minutes decided a 60-minute game. Are you sick of special teams harshing on the Dallas Stars’ strong 5-on-5 play? So are they, probably.

First period

The game started off auspiciously enough with Kari Lehtonen bailing out a giveaway by Cody Eakin (who otherwise played a pretty tight game). Kari also gave several Flyers notice that he wasn’t putting up with incursions in his crease. Nice to see.

Devin Shore opened scoring at 7:30 with a gritty net-front backhand on an assist by Curtis McKenzie (posted here 4 ur memreez courtesy of @MyRegularFace). CEDAR PARK ALL UP IN YA BIZNESS:

At this point, I’d like to shake Radko Gudas’ hand and offer him my most powerful congratulations, because these days you have to be a next-level D-lord to get called for a penalty against Antoine Roussel. The Stars didn’t capitalize on the resulting power play – again – but the fact that this particular extra-man advantage ever existed is something to marvel over.

Esa Lindell’s and Curtis McKenzie’s serial penalties (interference and boarding) kept the Flyers on the PP for nearly four minutes straight, and with Wayne Simmonds, Shayne Gostisbehere and Brayden Schenn out there for most of it, it was just a matter of time. Schenn got the tying goal on McKenzie’s minor.

Jason Spezza did his best to restore the Stars’ lead late in the period, but a mighty shot that knocked off Steve Mason’s mask killed the play, as well as a bit of momentum.

Second period

This frame was all about holding down Philly’s deadly tendencies during the long-change period. The Flyers battled hard to control play along the boards, but hard work and a fair bit of luck kept Our Gang going. The Stars won the shots-on-goal challenge and Lehtonen kept the pucks out. Kari even went for sole possession of the team’s goalie-assists record late in the period, with a beautifully judged pass to set up Roussel for a fine scoring chance.

The Stephen Johns-Brayden Schenn fight was fun to watch, but the matching fighting calls didn’t affect much. The period’s biggest scare came with a penalty on Tyler Seguin, if you can imagine – off the ice for two minutes after getting called for tripping Roman Lyubimov. The Flyers’ PP went on the job with three minutes left in the period, but the Stars kept it simple, picking off pucks and sending them back to Mason again and again, leaving Kari to make That One Big Save at the right time.

Third period

This one turned out to be all about special teams, for better and (mostly) otherwise. Philadelphia’s extra-man unit went back on the job early after a goalie-interference call on Lauri Korpikoski. The Stars’ PK looked confident this time, especially Lehtonen, who made a save-of-the-season glove grab on a thoroughly bewildered Ivan Provorov:

And then suddenly IT’S SHORE ’NUFF DEVIN TIME, yet agaaaain. Shoresy gave us hope for a hat trick of our own with this one:

Jakub Voráček did his best to get the Flyers even again, and this time it was Kari who nearly got his head taken off by a speeding puck.

The Stars’ power play once again failed to create some breathing room after Jordie Benn took Schenn’s stick to his beard. It came back to bite them as Schenn scored, again, on a power play, again, when Jamie Oleksiak earned a two-minute minor for cross-checking Voráček.

A second penalty on Seguin – on a somewhat iffy high-sticking call against Pierre-Édouard Bellemare (a.k.a. That Other NHL Guy From France) – made a Schenn hat trick possible. The Stars gave up their fourth triple of the season on the ensuing power play, with 2:15 left in the period. Voráček won empty-net roulette to seal the 4-2 final score. Matching game misconducts for Roussel and Simmonds in the final 11 seconds were the olive on the dirt sandwich.

All in all, what can you say? Our Gang had the other guys on the ropes until they didn’t, again. The score can’t be hung on the netminder, again. The road penalty kill gave up too many, again. The Supernova line sounded like a better idea than it was, again. And the hottest team in the NHL won consecutive games, again.

Time to look ahead to the second half of this tough back-to-back, in Chicago. The Stars know what they need to do. And they need to do all of it just a little bit better. Again.