Flyers finally reward Steve Mason in shutout


Flyers finally reward Steve Mason in shutout

OTTAWA -- Steve Mason should have had his first Flyers shutout in Carolina back on Nov. 5. He lost it in the final minute of regulation, then lost the game in overtime.

It burned him. He was angry. He kept his tongue and backed his team.

Tuesday at Canadian Tire Centre, his teammates made it up for Mason with a 5-0 shelling of the Senators in which Mason had 24 saves (see Instant Replay).

It was the first time the Flyers shut out Ottawa in the regular season since Jan. 18, 1999, also a 5-0 win in which John Vanbiesbrouck made 36 saves.

“Everything came together,” Mason said. “This was an extremely sound effort all around. From a defensive standpoint, we didn’t give [much] up.

“Guys were really pressing on the backcheck to make sure they were taking away rush opportunities. This is a good game to have going into tomorrow night [against Pittsburgh].”

Mason has not given up more than three goals in a game in 20 games as a Flyer since joining the team late last season.

Mason said he would feel fine playing back-to-back on Wednesday against Pittsburgh. He got a break as Ottawa had one goal denied on review (stick above the bar).

“I was disappointed to lose the one in Carolina,” Mason said. “When you continue to work hard and the team comes around, these opportunities are going to come around again. We just have to make sure to close it out.

“There’s nights when goaltenders earn a shutout and do a lot of the work. But tonight was a complete team effort. We worked hard for this win.”

They backed him with five goals (see story), including a season-high two power-play goals in one game. Claude Giroux’s line was dominant with a pair of goals and five points along with 13 shots generated from those three players.

Giroux said it felt good to reward Mason, who has been the Flyers' best player since the beginning of the season. He’s given them a chance to earn a point every game but one -- the Washington blowout.

“A lot of times, he should have gotten shutouts,” Giroux said. “He’s a really good goalie. Since he got traded here, he has unbelievable latitude. In practices and games, he’s the one working the hardest.

“When you see your goalie working hard like that, when you only score two goals and your goalie is behind you like that and still pushing you and telling you it’s going to come, he wasn’t getting [ticked] at us. You want to play hard for him.”

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Many, though not all hockey games, have a tipping point or pivotal moment that factors into the outcome.
Sometimes it’s obvious what it was and when the moment occurred. Other times, it’s overshadowed by something else on the ice.
Ask the Flyers which moment would define their come-from-behind 4-3 shootout victory over Buffalo on Tuesday and the response will be virtually unanimous: when Dmitry Kulikov leveled Jakub Voracek with a high hit that made contact to the head in the third period.
Voracek was forced off the ice under the NHL’s concussion protocol.
That hit incensed the Flyers, who went on to score two power-play goals and tie the game, 3-3. The comeback was on.
Yet there was a less obvious but significant point that happened late in the second period, and it concerned goalie Steve Mason.
Matt Moulson had given Buffalo a 3-0 lead on Michal Neuvirth at 15:43, when Flyers coach Dave Hakstol elected to make a goalie switch.
Rather than call a simple timeout to buy Mason some warm-up time and allow his team to collect itself on the bench, Hakstol challenged the goal, claiming “goalie interference.”
Replays won’t show any direct interference on the shot itself. Neuvirth was speared several seconds before the play developed.
Hakstol knew the goal would likely not be overturned, but his strategy was to buy time for Mason and his team. By using a challenge, he knew the review process would take a lot longer than the 60-second timeout.
Either way, he was going to use his only timeout.
“You know what, I think we needed a timeout at that time, anyway,” Hakstol said coyly. “Pretty low probability of it being successful. Everything worked out well in the end.”
Mason appreciated what his coach did, too. Buying extra time for you?
“Yeah, probably,” Mason replied. “Regardless of the situation, you’re sitting on the bench, you know? You’re not really gauged as much as when you’re playing, obviously. So, you just try and ramp things up as quickly as possible.”
Mason had two saves in that shortened period, five in the third period and one in the overtime to register his second victory.
“There’s a never-quit attitude in this room,” he said. “We showed in Chicago — we were just talking about that. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to close that one out.
“But guys have a belief that you get one [moment] and it comes. [Travis Konecny] got us going with his first NHL goal, which is great. The guys really pushed to capitalize on their chances.”

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

The kid finally has his first NHL goal.

Travis Konecny scored at 4:30 of the third period (see video) during the Flyers' 4-3 shootout win over Buffalo on Tuesday night (see story).  

His was the first of three power-play goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and get the Flyers into overtime.

First markers are always that much more special when they make a difference in a comeback victory, such as this one with the Flyers in a brutal stretch of six games in nine days.

“I am just excited that it happened,” Konecny said. “But the thing for me that was more exciting was coming back after that 3-0 [deficit] and an overall exciting night for us.”

The three power-play goals were a season high for the Flyers.

“We got going those two power plays ... our power plays set a tone,” Konecny said. “When that gets going, it makes it hard for the other team to stop us.

“It’s awesome because we know what they can do [on the top power-play unit]. They have been sticking with it and fighting the puck, whatever it’s been the past couple of games, but you know what they are capable of — you can see it the past couple of years. 

“You knew it was coming and tonight is the perfect night to get it going and I am sure that they are going to keep rolling with it.”

Schultz sits
The decision to sit 15-year veteran blueliner Nick Schultz to get Radko Gudas back into the lineup wasn’t easy but it made sense on several levels. Gudas had been suspended for six games.

First, Schultz doesn’t play on the power play, whereas Andrew MacDonald carries heavy minutes with the power play and penalty kill.

Brandon Manning? Not happening. He’s been the Flyers' best defenseman this season. Mark Streit? Doesn’t work because he quarterbacks the second-unit PP and is essentially teaching that duty to rookie Ivan Provorov.

“It’s real tough,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s part of the business and [Schultz has] done an excellent job. He’s always very well-prepared.

“We talked about what’s best for our team and we feel like Gudy going in, especially on a back-to-back, gives us fresh legs and a fresh body coming back into the lineup.”

Hakstol recently has had to switch around his defensive pairs to get more defensive coverage and consistency on the ice. For instance, moving Provorov from Streit to Manning.

He discounted Schultz’s age (34) as a true factor in the decision.

“I think the more flexibility you have, the better, whether it be for rest or for the injury situations,” Hakstol said. “First and foremost, I think we’re still looking for the true consistency that we need through our entire team, but certainly your D pairs are a big part of that. 

“Before we start getting to a comfort level of guys playing with different people, first we have to find true consistency. We’ve been pretty good, but we’ve had stretches where the consistency needs to improve, as well.”