SAN JOSE — Before starting this three-game road trip, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall worried about giving back precious points his club had piled up in winning 10 straight games.
Well, his concern was justified.
The Flyers were shut out for the second time in three games Friday night at SAP Center. This time, it was a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the San Jose Sharks and a rookie goalie, Aaron Dell, making just his sixth NHL start (see Instant Replay).
Dell, who played for Dave Hakstol at North Dakota, had an easy night in getting his first career shutout. The Flyers had few quality scoring chances. The club is now 1-4-1 since their 10-game win streak, garnering just three of a possible 12 points.
“We probably have four or five quality chances each period,” Hakstol said. “It was a step in the right direction. We had opportunities to take pucks to the blue paint and missed those.
“We didn’t get a whole lot of point shots through. Put it all together, we didn’t do enough to put [the puck] in the critical areas.”
Given the lack of creative scoring chances, Hakstol could have sorely used the talents of rookie Travis Konecny, who he benched this game for overall deficiencies in his game.
Making matters worse, starting goalie Steve Mason left after one period, injuring his left hand when Joe Thornton’s stick accidentally caught him coming around the net.
Rookie Anthony Stolarz finished and played outstanding, facing 22 shots with 21 saves.
“He was excellent and prepared coming in,” Hakstol said of Stolarz. “He played very, very well … had some tough saves. He battled hard for his teammates. He gave us a chance to stay in the game and win the game.”
Without Stolarz, it would have been a blowout.
“He made some massive saves to keep it 1-0,” Wayne Simmonds said. “Every time he has been in the net, he has our full confidence and has made some outstanding saves.”
At the other end, how can you not take advantage of playing against a rookie goalie who has not played in three weeks? That’s something the Flyers need to ask themselves.
“We got to get more pucks to the net, driving the net,” Simmonds said. “Our offense hasn’t been the best lately. We got to press that issue and can’t wait for things to happen.”
Mason was injured late in the first period. He had treatment on the hand on the ice, but when play resumed during a Sharks power play, Patrick Marleau scored off a loose rebound in the paint.
It was the only goal the Sharks needed. And that’s five power-play goals the Flyers' penalty kill units have given up in three games — another concern.
Mason finished the period, but Stolarz replaced him to start the second period and had an outstanding period, breaking up a 2-on-1 with a save on Joonas Donskoi and two saves on Marleau (five shots) late in the period.
Stolarz had several good saves in the third period, one on Marleau and a shoulder save on Kevin Leblanc. With so few puck touches, the Flyers didn't test Dell, who should have been peppered with shots given his inexperience just as Stolarz was tested by San Jose.
Nearing the midpoint of the third period, the Flyers had two chances in succession from defensemen Ivan Provorov and Andrew MacDonald, but Dell stopped both chances.
“We were trying to generate something, be active in the zone,” MacDonald said. “Keep pucks in and get aggressive. There wasn’t a ton of opportunities. We have to find a way. Going back to that win streak, we were finding ways to win. Right now, we’re coming up short.”
The Sharks' final goal from Justin Braun was high off the rush via a spectacular pass from Joe Pavelski.
“We got to stop this slide immediately,” Simmonds said. “We’re not panicking by any means but we know this is serious. We got start getting back on the winning side of games.
“Make sure we have a considered effort in Anaheim. Make sure we’re playing a tough, hard-nosed game and getting pucks to the net. Doing things we did when we were winning.”