Series tied 3-3
It’s win or go home. The Flyers will take on the New York Rangers in a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday evening.
Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden and the game will be televised on Comcast SportsNet.
Here are five things you need to know:
1. Stone Cold
The Flyers didn’t get off to a good start in Game 6. They made a series of mental mistakes in the first period and forced Steve Mason to bail them out on a number of occasions. Had Mason not been up to the task, things could have gone very differently.
The Rangers came out firing on all cylinders. They sent a flurry of shots towards Mason -- a handful of them went wide -- but the 25-year-old settled in and finished the first period with 13 saves.
“He’s done it time after time this year,” Wayne Simmonds said (see story). “They came in waves and he made some huge saves for us. It allowed us to get our footing under us.”
Mason has stonewalled the Rangers twice in three starts. He’s gone 2-1 with a .939 save percentage and 1.95 goals-against average in the series and has provided a calming influence between the pipes.
Now the Flyers will rely on Mason to go out and play like he has one more time -- this time in a hostile environment. He’s gone 0-2-1 with a 3.85 goals-against average in four career games at Madison Square Garden. Mason has been nothing short of spectacular at home in the series, now it’s time to see if he can deliver on the road.
2. The Gus bus
I think we can all agree that head coach Craig Berube’s decision to insert Erik Gustafsson into the lineup over veteran Hal Gill worked out just fine for the Flyers.
Gustafsson played over 18 minutes in Game 6. He sent three shots on net and denied two Ranger attempts. More importantly, the young defenseman scored a breakaway goal that essentially put the game away in the second period.
“I think it took a fortunate bounce,” Gustafsson said. “I almost thought [Henrik] Lundqvist was going to get it but luckily the puck went in."
Gustafsson scored directly after exiting the penalty box. The infraction that landed him in the box in the first place was questionable at best, but none of that mattered after he beat Lundqvist to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead.
The smooth-skating Gustafsson added a much-needed offensive presence to the Flyers’ blue line in Game 6. After his strong performance, you can bet he’ll be back in uniform for Wednesday’s deciding Game 7.
3. Key to success
If you’re trying to figure out why the Flyers have had success against the Rangers in this opening-round series, look no further than special teams.
The Flyers have killed off 20 consecutive Rangers power plays dating back to Game 2 and have surrendered just three goals while shorthanded all series long.
On the other end of the ice, the Flyers have scored six of their 15 goals in the series while on the man advantage. Their power-play units have been inconsistent in the postseason, but somehow still rank second in the NHL at 40 percent.
4. Lucky No. 7
The Flyers staved off elimination by bullying the Rangers at home on Tuesday. Now they are gearing up for their 16th Game 7 in team history.
The only other time the Flyers and Rangers met in a Game 7 was in the 1974 semifinals. The Flyers won that deciding game at home and eventually collected their first Stanley Cup championship in that same playoff run.
The Flyers are 9-6 all time in Game 7s. They are 3-3 on the road in Game 7 scenarios and have won their last two Game 7s away from the Wells Fargo Center.
New York will be playing in its 12th Game 7. The Blueshirts have gone 6-5 in their previous 11 occasions but are a perfect 5-0 in Game 7s played at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers have also won a seven-game series in the first round of the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. They beat the Ottawa Senators in 2012 and dispatched the Washington Capitals in 2013.
5. This and that
• Simmonds’ hat trick in Game 6 was the first by a Flyer in the playoffs since Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier each scored three times in an 8-5 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 13, 2012.
• Lundqvist is 3-1 with a .963 save percentage and 1.00 goals-against average in four career Game 7 starts.
• The Flyers have scored seven of their 15 goals in the series in the first period.
• Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Giroux each have two goals and four assists in the series.
• The winner of this series will take on Pittsburgh in the next round.