PHILADELPHIA – They scored first, they played solid defense and they received some stellar goaltending.
So it came as no surprise that the Flyers finally put an end to their eight-game (0-6-2) winless streak on Thursday night with a crisp 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars at the Wells Fargo Center.
Philadelphia had been outscored by a 15-1 margin in the second period during that skid but in this contest it reversed the trend, scoring a pair of goals.
James van Riemsdyk had a hand in both markers, scoring one and assisting on the other.
At the other end of the ice, rookie Carter Hart came within two minutes and 51 seconds of his first NHL shutout in goal for the Flyers. Jamie Benn scored the Dallas goal to foil Hart’s shutout bid.
Hart stopped all but one of 38 shots by the Stars, who were 5-1-1 in their last seven games.
The 37 saves were a new career high.
He admitted a shutout would have been great but a win was the most important thing.
“Those (shutouts) are nice,’’ he said. “But at the same time it just feels good to be back in the win column. The last few games, the boys have battled hard. . .some bounces just haven’t gone our way.
“We deserved a better fate in some of our previous games. Tonight we just kept chipping away at it.’’
One particular save in the second period stood out from the rest, when Hart stopped offensive-minded defenseman John Klingberg from point-blank range. Good anticipation by Hart allowed him to make the save.
Is Hart anticipating plays better before they fully develop?
“I think after my first couple games (he’s now played in eight), I kind of started to settle in,’’ he said. “When it comes to those kinds of situations, you just have to play. You do all the work in practice but in the game, it just comes down to hockey sense.’’
JVR entered the game with just one goal in his last nine games.
He’s been the first to admit that his game is still a work in progress after missing 16 games with a serious foot injury.
Against Dallas, he looked close to full strength.
Coach Scott Gordon probably helped the cause by putting van Riemsdyk back on the first line with Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny.
On the Flyers’ first goal at 1:23, van Riemsdyk executed a nifty backhand pass to Konecny, who wristed a shot past Dallas goalie Anton Khudobin.
The Flyers are 9-3-4 when they score first.
Then at 8:51, van Riemsdyk was in position to have Giroux’s shot from the left circle deflect off him.
Van Riemsdyk said it was a good feeling to have the winless streak finally over with. The Flyers had not win since a decision over the Rangers in New York back on Dec. 23.
“It’s obviously nice to get back in the win column,’’ he said. “It got a little hairy at the end but ‘Hartsy’ did a great job and stood tall in the end.’’
Added Radko Gudas: “It was a good effort from everybody. We stood our ground. Played smart. I could feel relief for the whole team. We got the two points. We needed that.’’
At the morning skate in Voorhees, N.J., van Riemsdyk talked about his progress since coming back from the injury in November.
That injury came just two games into the season and didn’t give him a chance to acclimate with his new teammates.
“When a team is going like this, I don’t think anyone can be content with how things are going for themselves personally,’’ he said. “Certainly I would like to have more production (he’s now up to seven goals and 16 points in 28 games).
“Again, I’m putting my best foot forward, using the same process and stuff like that I’ve always used. You continue to dig in, kind of grind at it. I knew coming in it was going to be an adjustment. . .I definitely feel like I can be better.’’
Hart turned in one of his best performances since making his NHL debut last month.
The save on Klingberg was big, according to Gordon.
Klingberg wound up with the puck in the deep slot and no defenseman in sight. But Hart stood his ground and made the save. A frustrated Klingberg slammed his stick against the glass behind the Philadelphia net.
Van Riemsdyk likes what he sees of Hart so far.
“He looks really good,’’ JVR said. “You can tell he’s got a really good mindset. Just watching him off the ice, he wants to get better, he wants to know the ‘why’ performance-wise.
“When you have that mindset, I think the sky is the limit, especially when you have that mindset that he has. That’s been impressive to me, he’s been like a sponge. He’s taking advantage of the different resources to keep growing his game.’’
Gordon sounded relieved to have the winless streak behind him.
“That team (Dallas) has been playing pretty well,’’ he said. “It wasn’t easy by any means. They brought a lot of pressure in the offensive zone. We weathered the storm when we had to.’’