Flyers blank Red Wings to snap four-game skid

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Flyers blank Red Wings to snap four-game skid

BOX SCORE

One game won’t solve all the Flyers’ ills, but they did so many things so much better on Tuesday night, that you have to feel a tad better about this upcoming West Coast trip.

Steve Mason pitched his second shutout of the season.

The breakout struggled early, but opened up in the second and third periods, generating speed and chances.

Puck possession was strong and the Flyers actually dominated at times.

As such, the Flyers took a good Red Wings team that was injury-depleted and beat ‘em up -- 5-0 at Wells Fargo Center -- their first win in five games (see Instant Replay).

“From Mason out, this gives everyone a little boost,” said Flyers coach Craig Berube, as his club catapulted back into third place in the Metropolitan Division -- and back into a playoff spot.

“You can attack with the puck and just getting it out and giving it back in the neutral zone. You come out clean with the puck and attack the other team with speed.”

Did we mention Scot Hartnell had two goals, playing back on the top line for just the second time this month?

Or that Mason halted a streak of six games in which he had given up three or more goals?

“Any time you can play with the lead, that makes everyone calm down a lot,” Mason said of how the tension surrounding the Flyers eased up once Hartnell made it 2-0 in the second period with his second goal.

“I had the sense from the get-go it was going to be a game that was going to go in our favor. Every now and then, as hockey players, you have those feelings. The guys worked hard to get goals. Any time you have a five-goal output, normally, you come out on the right side of things.”

Hey, Sean Couturier scored for the first time in 10 games. Fourth line centerman Adam Hall, who is actually playing the wing but taking most draws, scored his second goal this month.

A lot went right as the Flyers brace for their toughest test yet -- three games against the top three clubs in the Pacific Division in Anaheim, San Jose and Los Angeles -- though not necessarily in that playing order.

“Tonight it was attention to detail and compete level,” Hall said. “A lot of times it’s not rocket science. It’s how much you want to compete. Any time you can have a game like that, it gives guys confidence.

“Defensively, for our goaltender and offensively, as well, everyone have that good feeling, especially going on a road trip that leads into the Olympic break.”

It was ugly at the start, as Berube noted, because the Flyers were still getting jammed on the breakout despite dropping three forwards back to the half-wall.

As their legs got moving, however, and players lent puck support in all three zones, it started to look like Flyer hockey from a month ago: Movement, speed, offensive chances and scoring.

“We did a better job getting out of our zone and had more chances offensively,” team captain Claude Giroux said. “The defense did a really good job of moving the puck to the forwards.”

A depleted defense, too, as Kimmo Timonen took a shot off the foot early, left in the second period and never returned.

“He’s fine,” Berube said, while general manager Paul Holmgren would only add that Timonen would be reevaluated Wednesday.

The rout broke a four-game losing skid (0-3-1).

“Huge, especially in front of our fans,” Giroux said. “At home, we need to have a better attitude and more passion and tonight it was that kind of win. We played smarter and put ourselves in better position.”

Indeed, the Flyers jumped from 10th in the Eastern Conference to seventh just like that.

Now the test is can they stay there or move back up to second place where they last were on Jan. 19?

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

It had been a while since Steve Mason saw himself.

Walking into the Barclays Center on Sunday, the Flyers’ goalie was 0-6-2 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .844 save percentage over his last 10 appearances (see more recent Flyers numbers and stats).

A far cry from how Mason truly sees himself in net.

But heading into Wednesday’s rivalry clash with the Rangers, Mason will have something to build on, something he couldn’t say since Dec. 21 — the last time he had earned a victory. He’s fresh off his first win in over a month, a gigantic one for Mason considering all the key moments on Sunday the Flyers hope invigorate his confidence.

Without numerous clutch stops from their goalie, the Flyers don’t come back from two goals down to beat the Islanders, 3-2, in overtime. Mason made four saves  — three on four-time All-Star John Tavares — in just over a minute of a third-period power play. The Flyers ended up having to kill two New York man advantages in the final 10 minutes of regulation in order to force overtime.

The extra session is when Mason was just as good, if not better, stoning Tavares on a breakaway attempt that had game-winner written all over it. Mason made four saves in overtime after 13 in the third period.

“I was happy with the way that, personally, this game went for myself,” Mason said Sunday. “It’s been a tough stretch and this is more the type of game that I expect of myself. In recent games, the team was lacking the big saves and tonight it shows what kind of difference it can make.”

It was a massive performance heading into a massive three-game stretch against the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.

“Mase made some huge saves for us,” Simmonds said. “It allowed us to get back in that game.

“It’s not just Mase [with the] ups and downs. Everyone in here has been kind of fighting it and squeezing sticks pretty tight. That one felt good and I think Mase led the charge for sure.”

Mason understands just one game doesn’t turn around a season.

“It’s nice to feel good after a game,” Mason said. “At the same time, whether you’re winning or losing, you have to have a short mindset and get ready for the next one.”

That brings the Flyers to Madison Square Garden Wednesday to face the Rangers, who they’ve lost five straight games to dating back to last season. Mason hasn’t had much luck against New York this season, allowing seven goals in two losses with an .860 save percentage. However, in 2015-16, Mason put up a 1.74 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in five games against the Rangers.

“That’s going to be a tough game going into MSG,” Mason said Tuesday (see story).

The good thing: Mason was in New York two days ago, remembering what he can be.

Flyers in familiar spot in standings as critical games before break await

Flyers in familiar spot in standings as critical games before break await

While many people believe the Flyers are in far better shape right now than where they were a year ago, the fact is, they are pretty much the same.
 
After 48 games played, the Flyers have the same number of points now as they did last season – 52.
 
The critical difference – and this is why fans say they’re better off – is that a year ago at this juncture, the Flyers were five points behind Pittsburgh in the wild-card chase.
 
Right now, they own the second wild-card spot, but there are five teams behind them within four points or less of catching them, two of which have games in hand.
 
Earlier this week, Toronto was ahead of them and the Maple Leafs have three games in hand, which makes Thursday’s showdown against the upstart Leafs at Wells Fargo Center a very critical game.
 
That game represents the back end of the Flyers' 13th back-to-back set, which starts Wednesday with a date at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.
 
If ever two games in a short week prior to the All-Star break were of prime significance, these next two seem to qualify.
 
“A hundred percent,” said Jakub Voracek, the Flyers' leading scorer with 42 points. “It’s the same for every game. Practice and come to the rink with a win in your head.”
 
To a man, the Flyers go into the nationally televised showdown with the Rangers feeling great about themselves because of the extraordinary effort they showed in Sunday’s 3-2 comeback victory against the Islanders in OT.
 
“I felt like we won the Stanley Cup with that overtime goal,” Voracek kidded. “That’s how happy we were. There was a lot of relief. Now we have to keep going.”
 
Just five points separate nine teams from the second wild-card position right now. The Eastern Conference is just as tight as it’s always been. Within the Metropolitan Division, just five points separate the Flyers from the three times tied for last in the conference – the Islanders, Sabres and Lightning.  
 
“It’s been that way,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “Right from the drop of the puck in October, it was going to be a battle. You can’t get too distracted by it. You worry about the job in hand and that’s tomorrow.”
 
The focus this week is rather narrow: two games left before the All-Star break begins on Friday.
 
“Yeah, both these games have implications directed to us in the standings,” said goalie Steve Mason, who will start against the Rangers. “Both being Eastern Conference teams and they are right with one another.
 
“We have to have a short mindset. We have the Rangers and that’s going to be a tough game going into MSG. Once that game is over, we focus on the Leafs.”
 
The Rangers have beaten the Flyers twice this season already – both in South Philly. While the games were mostly competitive, there remains a huge disparity in one critical area for both teams this season: goal differential.
 
The Rangers have a plus-40 differential while the Flyers check in at minus-18. As poor as Henrik Lundqvist (2.75 goals against average) has been this season – although his recent performances are trending upward – he still owns the Flyers.
 
In his last 15 games against the Flyers, going back to Jan. 1, 2013, Lundqvist is 11-3-0 with a 1.91 GAA and .938 save percentage.
 
“This is huge, especially in MSG,” Voracek said. “We lost two games in a row to them at home. Hopefully, we get points.”
 
In his last three starts this month, Lundqvist is 3-0 with a 1.32 GAA and .952 save percentage. In other words, the “old” King Henrik appears to have regained his throne just in time to face the Flyers.
 
“Their goaltender has been outstanding over this past stretch for them,” Hakstol said. “Their team is playing well.
 
“We have to worry more about our team. We’re not going to control what their side is going to do. We can control what we do.”