They were badly outplayed midway into the game.
Their push back in the third period was met by an even more determined push from Dallas in terms of puck pursuit.
Coach Craig Berube twice said his Flyers were sloppy.
And yet when things are going good and you have deep secondary scoring with a goalie who protects a one-goal lead like his very life depends upon it, you win hockey games you should lose.
Hence, the Flyers' 4-2 victory over the Stars Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center. A victory that allows the second-place Flyers to lead both Columbus and the Rangers by three points in the Metro Division standings.
The Flyers also ran their record to 4-0 (eight points) on this “Deadly Dozen” of games that will define their season and playoff chances.
Michael Raffl was the latest hero, scoring with less than four minutes to play after Jamie Benn’s second of the night made it 3-2 at 12:51.
“I don’t feel like a hero, buddy,” said the Austrian winger. “It’s nice to score and get a win. We didn’t play our best hockey, but we found a way to win.”
That way was Steve Mason, who had 33 saves. He was the difference from the second period on.
It began with a Dallas five-on-three power play. Mason stoned seven shots the Stars fired on that power play, scoring five-on-four to make it 2-1 when Dallas had outdid the Flyers in everything right into the third period.
“He played good in the second, five-on-three, he made some plays and we gave them three power plays where they got some momentum from,” Berube said.
“Tonight wasn’t good. We were sloppy, at times. Overall, our team is competing hard, working hard and playing like a team. They know it wasn’t good enough, but we won. But really it wasn’t good enough.”
The game lacked the emotion of playing a Pittsburgh or Chicago, but the Stars are a desperate club looking to make the playoffs. They came hard at the Flyers.
Wayne Simmonds scored twice to match Benn. Simmonds now has 23 goals this season, one less than Claude Giroux.
“When we played them in Dallas, they came at us hard every minute and we expected the same,” Simmonds said. “That second period, Mase made some huge saves, especially on the five-on-three and gave us an opportunity to get the win.”
The difference in the one-goal lead from the final eight minutes of the second period when Benn scored his first goal to Dallas coming right back to make 3-2 after Simmonds’ second goal with less than eight minutes to play, was Mason’s glove hand.
Good teams find a way. Sometimes the goalie has to be the ultimate difference, especially when your club is being outhustled to pucks.
“Unbelievable. He played great, he was a rock for us back there,” defenseman Braydon Coburn said. “He’s been doing that a lot lately.
“They got some great chances and he shut the door on them. And they were key saves at key times. That’s maybe understated. He made big saves at big parts of the game.”
Which was often considering that Dallas had 29 shots through the first 36 minutes of play.
“It was 2-0 and he made those two great saves on the five-on-three,” said team captain Claude Giroux, referring to post-to-post saves on Alex Chaisson, then Jamie Benn.
Benn eventually scored five-on-four, but the game could have been tied right there.
“He made saves that gave us momentum and make us believe," Giroux said.
Simmonds is five goals shy of his career high set in 2011-12 during his first year here. He took another gifted pass from Vinny Lecavalier, cut middle slot to the right circle to beat Tim Thomas, briefly making it 3-1.
“I tried to fire it quick,” Simmonds said. “I was coming across the middle and tried to go across the grain. I caught him … in his arm.”
Benn came back three minutes later to make it 3-2 and Dallas made another push before Sean Couturier hit Raffl with a breakaway pass that ended it.
Raffl came in hard from the right on Thomas, then went forehand/backhand.
He said he knew “nothing” about Thomas.
“I had a lot of speed, everything went so fast, I tried to get him on his knees,” Raffl said. “Go either side on the backhand. Then it went in. Yeah, it was nice.”
Hobey Baker Award
Flyers prospect Shayne Gostisbehere (Union College), was named one of 10 finalists for that award, which goes to the best collegiate hockey player.