Steve Mason was outstanding stopping 38 of 40 shots as the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the New York Rangers 4-2 on Tuesday night.
“Certainly he seems to be feeling comfortable here”, Coach Peter Laviolette said of his new goaltender. ”He’s in control of the net. He’s got a good glove. He seems to be seeing the puck really well. Rebounds are going out to the side or not at all.”
Kimmo Timonen had what ended up being the game winning power play goal along with an assist. Brayden Schenn, Erik Gustafsson, and Jakub Voracek also scored for the Flyers. Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Claude Giroux (2), Danny Briere, and Brandon Manning added assists.
Henrik Lundqvist took the loss for the Rangers making 18 saves on 21 shots. Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan scored for the Rangers. Derick Brassard, John Moore, and Ryan Callahan assisted on the goals.
Unlike the Flyers, the Rangers entered the game with something to play for as they held the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference with only a two point lead over ninth place Winnipeg, and only two points behind the sixth seeded Senators. Meanwhile, the Flyers were just as close to the basement in the East, seven points, as they were the playoffs.
The Rangers also entered the game fresh while the Flyers were playing the latter half of back to backs. As the game wore on, the fatigue showed as the Rangers took the pressure to the Flyers.
The game started off with very little in the way of offensive pressure until Brayden Schenn opened the scoring at 9:28 of the first period. A Brandon Manning shot was blocked and found its way right to Schenn who deposited it in the back of the cage. Manning registered his first NHL point on the play. Later, at 17:21, Sean Couturier entered the zone and fed a beautiful pass across the ice to Erik Gustafsson who snapped a very pretty one-timer past King Henrik to make it 2-0.
The second period saw a bit more wide open hockey and quite a bit of power play time for both teams. Mats Zuccarello beat Steve Mason at 2:54 of the period when he used Oliver Lauridsen as a screen and took a quick shot to net the goal. The Flyers answered on the power play exactly halfway through the period when Claude Giroux won the faceoff and Kimmo Timonen ripped a laser past Lundqvist to the far side.
The Flyers finished the contest one for two on the power play, while shutting out the Rangers on their five opportunities.
In the third period the Rangers applied the pressure and while Steve Mason did his best, the Rangers eventually managed to squeeze a goal past him. A bouncing puck found the stick of Derek Stepan who was able to trickle one by Mason to cut the Flyer lead to one.
When asked about Mason in the third period Laviolette offered “It was his best period…It was a really, really strong effort.”
Later in the third Mason went down flexing his leg in quite a bit of pain. Play was stopped so that Mason could see the trainer and Ilya Bryzgalov began stretching on the ice. However, Mason stayed in the game for what was later determined to be cramping.
The Rangers continued to show the fresher legs throughout the third, but after their second consecutive icing with under one minute left, Jakub Voracek potted the empty netter to seal the 4-2 victory for the Flyers and Steve Mason who got the first victory for a Flyers backup goaltender on the season. With that goal Voracek set a new career high with 19 goals in this shortened season. His previous high was last season’s 18 goals in 78 games.
While many fans have turned their attention toward the possibility of a high draft pick, the Flyers are now five points out of a playoff spot with five games remaining. When asked about how he and his team are approaching the possibility of the playoffs, Laviolette provided “The same as yesterday. The same as before the game, which is one game at a time. The old cliche. Right now…we’re in a hole, we’ve put ourselves here. We accept that. I think it’s important that we just keep fighting.”
And what a fight the Flyers have ahead of them if they are to make the playoffs. The fight continues for the Flyers Thursday night against the free-falling New Jersey Devils who have lost 10 games in a row.
Notes: Coming into the game Derek Stepan led the Rangers in power play points with nine. The Flyers had five players with nine or more points. Claude Giroux led with 20 power play points…Luke Schenn entered the game with 157 hits and is pacing to come up just shy of the Flyers’ record for hits (196), even in this shortened season…Sean Couturier led all Flyers forwards in ice time with 22:16.