Mason: 'One of the more intense games of the season'
Steve Mason made 33 saves as the Flyers beat the Rangers, 4-2, on Saturday. (USA Today Images)
When you get to this point in the season, you hope you can find some sort of trend that bodes well in your favor down the stretch -- especially against a hated Metropolitan Division rival such as the New York Rangers.
So here it is: The Flyers are 2-1 against the Rangers this season and now just a point behind New York in the division standings following Saturday’s 4-2 victory at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).
“We’ve done a better job over the Rangers and Devils this year compared to other years,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said.
“We beat the Rangers, 2-1, here at home. Both teams were struggling at the time. Up there, we lost that game in the first period but played well after. We’ve played some real good hockey against the Rangers.”
Put it this way: The Flyers did something no one can remember them doing before. They scored two goals on their first four shots against King Henrik Lundqvist.
Heck, in 13 of their previous 15 games against the Rangers, the Flyers scored two goals or less in the entire game.
Flyers goalie Steve Mason outplayed Lundqvist with 33 saves while Wayne Simmonds was a human dynamo, and the Flyers’ penalty kill units gave them early momentum and a 2-0 lead.
“It feels good, but I wasn’t going out there Steve Mason versus Lundqvist,” Mason said. “I wanted to help the Flyers beat the Rangers, which is what we did. He’s a great goaltender, and if I can come out on top against him more often than not, that’s a pat on the back, I guess.”
Mason’s best save came in the waning minutes of the game against Derek Stepan with the Rangers attacking with six skaters.
“Original shot came from the point and they’re not coming in hard,” Mason said. “Hard to control rebounds when it’s at a slower speed and sticks impede your vision.
“The puck landed right on [Stepan’s] stick and I was able to get my left pad on it. It was a reactive save.”
So many positives against a Rangers club the Flyers could meet in the playoffs.
“Felt like it,” Vinny Lecavalier said. “The crowd was definitely into it. It was a fun game, a fast-paced hockey game with great opportunities on both sides.”
It was also a terrific bounce-back effort after a 7-3 blowout loss to San Jose on Thursday.
“We didn’t want to have the same outcome as San Jose,” said Simmonds, who scored the game-winner in the second period and was outstanding without the puck the entire game.
“We slowed down a bit in the second when they got those two goals, but we powered back and played a strong third period.”
The Flyers improved to 4-0-1 in bounce-back games after losing by four or more goals in the previous game.
“We’re a resilient bunch, but we should never give up that many goals to begin with,” Simmonds said. “We talked about things after that. We started from scratch and do simple things right, and it results in wins.”
Added Sean Couturier, “Guys showed we had character.”
It wasn’t a good start.
Scott Hartnell picked up two penalties in his first 37 seconds on the ice. Mason and the penalty kill units were outstanding, and that gave the Flyers momentum to score goals from Lecavalier and Couturier immediately after.
“Those were tough [to kill] but we built momentum off that,” Couturier said. “That first period was a big period for us. Since the start of the year, our special teams have been pretty good and can make the difference down the road.”
His breakaway goal off a Matt Read pass against Lundqvist was a beauty. Moved right to left in the slot, got Lundqvist to go down, then roofed it for his 10th of the season.
“I just faked the shot, kept going with it, he bit on it, and just put it in the net,” Couturier said.
Simmonds’ power play game-winner at 13:20 of the second period was slick. He took a rebound from behind the boards, skated to the left circle, spun and released a quick shot that seemed to startle Lundqvist.
“He’s one of the best in the league, and we tried to shoot from every angle,” said Simmonds, who tied Claude Giroux for the club lead in goals (19). “He plays deep in his net.
“I was looking for Jake [Voracek] back door and no one even came to me, so I thought I would just shoot it as hard as I can and if worse came to worse, there’s a rebound to Jake back door. Luckily, it went in.”