The Dallas Stars walked into Philadelphia as the third best team in the Central Division, looking to add another road win before flying back to Texas. The Stars were coming off of a 3-1 win over division rival St. Louis, but were honestly lucky to come out with the full two points. An improved effort in Philadelphia would have been the expectation from the coaching staff, looking to erase the third period effort in St. Louis from memory.
In the home dressing room, the Philadelphia Flyers were coming off of an eight-game losing streak, good for last in Metropolitan Division. The club was also experiencing massive issues in the crease, as they had to bring in previous Star Mike McKenna to back up the stellar rookie Carter Hart.
The goaltending matchup was Anton Khudobin versus Carter Hart, while giving Ben Bishop the night off after two straight games on the road.
Contrary to popular belief, the puck did drop in Philadelphia, but at times in the first seven minutes the Stars failed to recognize that. Countless turnovers in neutral ice and in their defensive zone happened enough to consider it habit, while allowing the Flyers to test Khudobin from dangerous areas in tight. In fact, Khudobin bailed out the Stars on his first save of the night, as he reached out and caught a dangerous chance from Claude Giroux.
The period progressed past the midway point with little action to speak of. The best Stars chance came courtesy of a Devin Shore foray into the Philadelphia end, rifling a puck from a bad angle that rookie netminder Hart was able to stop.
The Stars’ defensive posture did improve as the period went along, with the turnovers giving way to increased time in the Philadelphia zone. When the Flyers did appear to have a chance at offense, the Stars backtracked as a five-man unit, quickly thwarting their chance.
Nolan Patrick gave Khudobin a late period test, as the young forward whipped around John Klingberg, firing a tester off of the Khudobin’s shoulder. The move was the prettiest play of the period, as Patrick took a really nice angle to maneuver around Klingberg.
The period wouldn’t be a bad one for the Stars, who survived the yips with the puck and really established their forecheck for the majority of the frame. Albeit, the Stars did fail to score and the period would end as it started — scoreless.
SOG: Dallas 7, Flyers 6
Score: Dallas 0, Flyers 0
As the middle frame began, the Stars seemed to come out on their toes, dumping pucks deep into the Flyers end. However, the momentum from a good first shift didn’t carry over into the next, as the Flyers did strike first. A breakdown in the Stars’ zone coverage saw James van Riemsdyk slap a backhand pass to find the stick of an uncovered Travis Konecny. Konecny then shoveled the puck past Khudobin for his 11th goal of the season and a 1-0 Flyers lead.
The Stars tried to answer the Flyers goal on the very next shift, and they did come close. Julius Honka attacked the Flyers defense with speed, skating behind the goal and attempting a wraparound chance on Hart. Hart was just able get his pad over to the post, stopping the chance and preserving the 1-0 lead.
The referees interjected themselves into the game by handing out a two-minute 4-on-4 opportunity, as Sean Couturier tripped Mattias Janmark, who then high-sticked Couturier on the way down. Through the first minute of the 4-on-4 time, the Stars controlled the majority of the chances. Roope Hintz tested Hart off of the initial shift, followed by a shot from Alexander Radulov that just missed.
However, bad went to worse for Dallas as the penalty expired, when the Flyers expanded their lead to 2-0. With a delayed penalty on Jamie Benn for slashing, Giroux threw an innocent puck on net, only for it to be tipped in by van Riemsdyk.
The Stars couldn’t seem to get out of their way as the period continued, handing the Flyers a power play courtesy of Klingberg picking up a high-sticking minor. The Stars penalty kill rose to the occasion, killing the minor off with relative ease. The Stars seemed to gain a little momentum from the kill with the top line running an effective shift in the Philadelphia end to answer. Klingberg had the best chance of the stint, when a nice pass from Radulov found his tape, but Hart was equal to the task.
The Stars received their first opportunity with the man advantage, when van Riemsdyk committed a tripping minor on Tyler Pitlick behind the Stars net. The Stars failed to score on their power play however, with Giroux snuck through the Stars’ lines to whip a shot just over the Stars net.
The Stars answered their failed power play attempt by awarding the Flyers a power play of their own, when Tyler Fedun was caught for holding. The Flyers’ special team looked dangerous at the end of the period, with Khudobin having to come up large in order to keep the deficit at just two goals.
SOG: Dallas 20, Flyers 12
Score: Dallas 0, Flyers 2
The final period began with the Flyers on the back end of their power play, which the Stars killed off in short order. The Stars then followed the kill with some quality zone time in the Philadelphia end, which culminated in a few testers on Hart.
The best chance of the beginning five minutes of the third came with Benn and Jason Spezza on the ice against the Flyers’ fourth line. The Stars funneled pucks towards the net, creating pressure, turnovers, and chances in front of Hart.
Overall, the Stars’ start to the third period was fast and relentless in large swaths of the frame. At one point, Dallas was outshooting Philadelphia 6-2.
The Stars were awarded a power play when Devin Shore was tripped by Wayne Simmonds at the 12-minute mark. The chance started rather abruptly for the Stars, as a turnover led to a 3-on-1 for the Flyers, where Khudobin shut the door on Couturier not once, but twice.
The Stars buzzed around the Flyers net, peppering Hart with chance after chance. However, the heavy pursuit led to an eventual 2-on-0 chance for the Flyers, which Khudobin turned away with a sparkling save.
With 2:51 remaining in the game, Benn finally solved the puzzle of Hart, as the Stars spread out the Flyers. With the puck kicked to the front of the net, Benn whipped it to the five hole on Hart, which cut the Flyers’ lead in half.
Jamie Benn bores a hole through Carter Hart and the shutout bid is over. The Stars make it a one shot game.— Dylan Nadwodny (@dnadders) January 11, 2019
PHI 2 DAL 1 pic.twitter.com/Vnqqb9l1tb
The final minute of the period took an interesting turn as Jakub Voráček found himself tangled up with Khudobin as he forced a puck into the net. The Stars challenged for goaltender interference, hoping to trim the 3-1 lead back down to 2-1. Voráček’s goal was overturned and the Stars proceeded to pull Khudobin for the final push. However, Dallas couldn’t find the equalizer, and the Flyers won the matchup 2-1.
The Stars will return to Dallas, where they will host the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, January 12. Puck drop is at 8 p.m. Central.