DALLAS – About four weeks after they reached their peak — climbing atop the Metropolitan Division following three months of excellence – the Flyers are fighting for their playoff lives.
The fight got a little tougher Tuesday night after a 3-2 overtime loss to Dallas at American Airlines Center.
For the second time in four games, the Flyers lost to a non-playoff team that had a long losing streak.
Alexander Radulov scored on a two-on-nothing break — one Flyer fell down in their offensive end and went to the bench — with 4:20 left in overtime to hand the visitors a crushing defeat.
Dallas ended an eight-game losing streak. Last week, Detroit snapped a 10-game losing skid against the Flyers.
“It’s frustrating. We needed those two points and couldn’t get it done,” captain Claude Giroux said after the Flyers outshot the Stars, 33-23, including 14-6 in the third period, but lost because Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen had his best performance in several weeks.
The Flyers are two points ahead of New Jersey, the second wild-card team. The Devils have a game in hand. The Flyers have the first wild-card spot.
“We just can’t get too frustrated and have to keep on playing [hard],” said defenseman Ivan Provorov, who gave the Flyers a brief 2-1 lead in the second period. “I know it sucks to lose points, especially because the race is so tight for a playoff spot, but we can’t live in the past. We have to move forward.”
The Flyers play in Colorado on Wednesday.
With the game tied at 2, the Flyers squandered a power play that was awarded with 14:47 remaining in regulation. The Flyers had just one shot with the man advantage, and Lehtonen made a great scrambling save on Oskar Lindblom.
Provorov, jumping into the offense, scored from the high slot after taking a slick feed from Wayne Simmonds, giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead with 17:57 left in the second. It gave Provorov 14 goals and the Flyers’ defense 47 tallies, second among NHL blue-line groups.
With 9:49 to go in the second, Dallas tied it at 2-2 on Brett Ritchie’s deflection in front of the net while the Stars were on a power play, granted because Andrew MacDonald flipped the puck over the glass for a delay-of-game infraction.
Later in the second, Lehtonen — who has been a human punching bag in his career against the Flyers — robbed Simmonds (on a three-on-one) and Sean Couturier from close range.
After a slow start – Dallas had seven of the game’s first eight shots and built a 1-0 lead – the Flyers regrouped and dominated the last eight minutes of the first period.
They tied the score as second-year right winger Travis Konecny scored on a wrist shot from the right circle with 3:09 left in the period. It was Konecny’s 23rd goal and his 17th in the last 31 games.
“We had good possession time in their zone,” said Konecny, the game’s most relentless performer in the opening period. “We were staying on pucks. On second- and third-puck chances in the corners, we were making sure we were winning those battles and getting the puck back.”
Shayne Gostisbehere (45th assist) and Giroux (career-high 66th assist, which put him atop the NHL at the time) set up Konecny’s goal. For Giroux, it gave him nine assists in his last five games.
The Flyers had 10 of the last 13 shots in the first, including a point-blank attempt by Simmonds that Lehtonen denied with 1:30 to go in the session. Lehtonen entered the night with one win in 15 career decisions against the Flyers.
The Stars, who used 11 forwards and seven defensemen, struck first as Radek Faksa scored on a carom off the end boards, beating defenseman Brandon Manning to the puck with 9:10 remaining in the first. Goalie Petr Mrazek was slow to cover the far post, and Dallas had the early lead.
Mrazek was given another chance to regain the form he showed in his first three games with the Flyers.
“It’s fun to play these games and be in a playoff race,” Mrazek, 26, said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “I was a part of it for two or three years in Detroit when we made the playoffs and it’s the best time of the year.”
Coach Dave Hakstol, who made three in-game goalie changes in the previous six contests, said he selected Mrazek over rookie Alex Lyon partly because of his experience and because he “came in and did a good job in the game in Pittsburgh.”
In that 5-4 overtime loss Sunday, Mrazek relieved Lyon (three goals on 11 shots) and stopped 19 of 21 shots.
“Just looking back on some of his past performances, in these situations, he’s been good,” Hakstol said before the contest, referring to Mrazek’s play in games that had playoff implications while he was in Detroit earlier in his career.