PHILADELPHIA – It was going to be different this year, the Flyers insisted.
Unlike previous seasons, they were going to get off to a quick start and build some confidence early.
And things looked promising after knocking off the Blackhawks in Prague and a slumping Jersey team back in Philly.
But it’s been almost nothing but frustration since and the frayed edges are starting to show.
Like Saturday night’s puzzling 4-1 loss to the previous 1-7-1 Dallas Stars at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers outshot the Stars, 39-16, and still got outscored by three goals.
That just shows, in part, why the Flyers are 0-3-1 in their last four contests and are 2-3-1 overall.
Even when the Flyers held Dallas to a single shot in the second period, they couldn’t cut into the visitors’ one-goal lead.
Flyers goalie Carter Hart suffered a second straight loss for only the fifth time in his career.
Sean Couturier connected 43 seconds into the game and then the Flyers went scoreless the last 59-plus minutes.
Coach Alain Vigneault has been preaching patience and for the time being he seems to be keeping his cool. But that could change.
“Our process is good,’’ he insisted after the game. “If you look at our overall game tonight, take a look at the scoring chances for and against, we had a pretty dominating performance.
“Right now we’re having a tough time finishing. It’s like a golfer who gets it (to the green) and can’t putt. At the end of the day, we’re having a challenging time as a group finding the back of the net. We’re doing the right things. . .going hard to the net, but we’re having a tough time making the other team pay for their mistakes.’’
Couturier finished off a tic-tac-toe play with Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny to give the Flyers their early lead.
But the Stars scored twice later in the period to take a 2-1 lead.
First, Roope Hintz executed a nice deke move past Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen and sent a shot past Hart at the seven-minute mark.
Then Esa Lindell scored on a power play at 13:48. He tipped Denis Gurianov’s pass just beyond the reach of Hart.
In the third period, Dallas took a 3-1 lead when a Travis Sanheim clear attempt was blocked by Hintz and relayed to Corey Perry for a shot under the crossbar.
Perry, a former star with the Anaheim Ducks, finished the game with a goal and two assists.
Some of the Flyers’ big offensive players continued to struggle.
Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk have yet to score a goal. Scott Laughton and Shayne Gostisbehere are in the same boat.
“Certainly it’s frustrating,’’ van Riemsdyk commented. “You see all these one-goal games, one goal makes a huge difference. Certainly it’s tough right now to score goals. Just have to stick with it, getting a lot of good looks. Unfortunately you don’t get much credit for good looks.
“Stay with it. They’re bound to go in if I keep getting chances like this.’’
Are the Flyers possibly focusing too much on defense and not enough time attacking the other team’s net?
“That’s usually driven by the score of the game,’’ JVR said. “I think we’ve been buying into the structure and doing a lot of things the right way. They capitalized on their chances tonight and we didn’t.’’
Couturier agreed with his teammate. It’s a matter of finishing off chances.
“It’s just executing,’’ he offered. “We’re getting shots. I guess we have to stick to what we’re doing. The bounces are going to come our way soon.’’
Hart had long gaps (a span of 38 minutes, 10 seconds covering the second and third periods) when he saw only one shot and that didn’t make his task too easy.
He wound up giving up three goals. Dallas’ final goal was an empty-netter.
“It can be tough to find a way to stay in the game,’’ he said. “But I’m a professional. I have to find a way so I can stay focused for the whole game no matter what happens – whether I get 60 shots or five shots. I still have to be prepared for each shot.’’