Steve Mason looked a little drained.
He had good reason. For more than half the game, he was the lone difference between the Flyers clinging to a one-goal lead and losing by several.
Just that simple.
“Games have ways of sorting themselves out,” Mason said after the Flyers' narrow 4-2 victory over the Dallas Stars (see game recap).
Mason was the ultimate defensive difference, while Wayne Simmonds provided clutch offense with two goals.
“It was a tough one because we were clinging onto that one-goal lead for such a long time,” Mason said. “The guys found a way to come out and get some big goals that third period [after leading 2-1]. This is a team win.”
The Dallas Stars are big and fast, and they came at Mason all night. Jamie Benn had two goals -- his second made it 3-2 before Michael Raffl put it away for good.
“Sometimes bounces go your way and sometimes they don’t,” Mason said. “When they’re not going your way, things tend to be magnified a little bit.
“Right now the guys are working hard. You can really see it in our last three games, including this one, just on the back check. We’re not giving teams too much time. Our games against Pittsburgh and Chicago were really solid team efforts and tonight was the same.”
That’s nine starts in the last 10 games for Mason. His record is 7-2-1. He admits the night off against Chicago helped.
“Anytime you can utilize the rest you get coming down this home stretch is going to be big,” Mason said. “We’re in a good spot right now. We have to keep playing well. Every game is going to be a must-win down the road.”
Simmonds now has 23 goals, five shy of career high set with the Flyers in 2011-12.
“I think I’m playing more consistently,” Simmonds said. “My first year here I did get the 28 goals, but I think there were some lapses in the season where I’d probably go 15, 16 games. I think there was one time I went like 17 games without a goal, and I just try to make sure I play a more complete game and more consistently.”
So what’s changed?
“I don’t know,” Simmonds replied. “I think it’s just getting used to the league more and more. It’s my sixth year in the league now, and as you get older the game starts to slow down a little bit. Things, I don’t want to say it gets easier, but I guess it does get a little bit easier.”
Flyers coach Craig Berube has seen the difference in Simmonds.
“He’s grown this year as a power forward,” Berube said. “I think his game has improved on the rush. He’s become a very good rush player.
“You could see tonight, he takes the puck and shoots it off the rush and scores. To me, that’s where his game has really improved this year.”
Claude Giroux had an assist, extending his scoring streak to five games (1-7-8). The Flyers have a record of 30-12-3 when Giroux earns at least one point. He has had at least one point in the Flyers’ last 14 wins.
Mark Streit’s first-period goal was the 30th by a Flyers defenseman this season. The last time that occurred was in 2009-10, when their blue liners had 32 goals. The Flyers got 38 goals from defensemen in the 2005-06 and 2003-04 seasons.
The Flyers blocked 24 Dallas shots. That ties with two other games for second-most this season.
In the 10 games since the Olympic break, the Flyers have scored 16 goals in the first period. That’s an average of 1.6 first-period goals. Prior to the Olympic break, the Flyers had scored 38 first-period goals in 59 games for an average of 0.65.