Instant Replay: Flyers 5, Blue Jackets 4

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Instant Replay: Flyers 5, Blue Jackets 4

BOX SCORE

For the first time this season, the Flyers had the opportunity to grab hold of a playoff spot all their own without being tied with anyone, no strings attached.

Win the game and they were third in the Metropolitan Division.

Win the game and they were over .500 for the first time this season.

It was also the first time goalie Steve Mason has faced his former club -- Columbus -- since being traded here last April.

All of that was of incentive for Craig Berube’s Flyers Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center against the Blue Jackets during a stunning 5-4 victory thanks to a blind, backhanded, rebound goal from Claude Giroux with 1:27 left in regulation.

The Flyers trailed 3-0 going into the last period.

Giroux’s second marker was his 100th career goal, too.

After being terribly outplayed in the second period and falling behind three to zip, the Flyers came out buzzing in the third period scoring twice -- Jakub Voracek and Braydon Coburn -- in 5:22 to make a game of it.

They were alive!

And then … Scott Hartnell, who had a poor game, lost a puck battle behind the net and Mason gave up a soft goal to Blake Comeau and it was 4-2.

Over, right? Nope. First, Erik Gustafsson and then Giroux scored to tie it on rebounds.

Early on
Columbus was badly outplayed and outshot (14-4) in the opening period, but led 1-0 off a shorthanded goal as the Flyers’ power play was nothing short of ghastly that stanza.

Maybe that stung the Flyers because they flat out rolled over in the second period and allowed the Blue Jackets to take it to them, even giving up a goal in the final 10 seconds of the period, making it 3-0 amid a torrent of boos.

Comeback
The Flyers were 1-11-0 when trailing after two periods.

Injuries
Sean Couturier seemed to have a foot or leg injury after getting hit with a puck around the 12:15 mark of the first period. He missed a few shifts being tended to at the bench and briefly appeared on a power play but eventually resumed his regular shift.

He’s hot
Voracek scored his fourth goal in three games.

He’s struggling
Mason has given up four goals in four of his last six starts.

Long time
Gustafsson had not scored since Oct. 12 at Detroit.

Shorthanded
As irony would have it, former Blue Jacket Voracek coughed up a puck on a Flyers power play and Columbus went three-fourths of the ice with a two-on-one. Cam Atkinson was looking pass the entire way and then wristed a shot past Mason for the only goal that first period.

Shoot, score
Columbus scored first on just its third shot of the game.

Bad change
For perhaps the fourth or fifth time this season, a bad line change or defensive change saw a goal come against the Flyers. Columbus made it 2-0 barely five minutes into the second period off a bad defensive change that saw a two-on-one with Coburn the lone defender. Jack Skille buried a shot from the right dot.

Special teams
The Flyers were brutal on their third power play, twice allowing the Jackets to have an attacker going down the ice chasing a puck unmanned. The Flyers had already been beaten for one shorthanded goal and it could have easily beem two that period. That said, their first power play was excellent with several scoring chances denied by goalie Curtis McElhinney.

Tic-tac-toe
Passing from Michael Raffl to Giroux to Voracek early on for a scoring chance but no goal.

Scratches
Center Vinny Lecavalier (injured back); Defensemen Hal Gill and Andrej Meszaros were healthy.

Loose pucks
Coming into the game, the Flyers were 4-0-1 lifetime against the Blue Jackets on home ice. … The Flyers travel to Columbus on Saturday. This will be the first time both Voracek and Mason go back home wearing different uniforms.

With increased workload, Steve Mason settling in as unquestioned No. 1 goalie

With increased workload, Steve Mason settling in as unquestioned No. 1 goalie

As Steve Mason has gone recently, the Flyers have gone right with him.

That theme held true in Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Florida Panthers, as the Flyers extended their winning streak to six games on the back of a 42-save performance from Mason.

For Mason, it was not only his fifth consecutive win, which equals a career high, but also the fifth straight game that he’s surrendered no more than two goals.

"Biggest thing is the saves we got, no doubt about that,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I thought Mase, it was one of those nights where he was our best player."

"He's been amazing,” Jakub Voracek said. “He's had a lot of streaks like this through his career. Last five, six games, he's been outstanding. Last year he pushed us to the playoffs, he was outstanding. When he got traded here, he was outstanding. It's good to see him play like that."

"Mase was the difference tonight,” Wayne Simmonds said.

On a night where the Flyers’ overall play could be best described as sloppy, Mason was sharp from the opening puck drop.

Despite facing of barrage of shots early, Mason was locked in, stopping 14 of the whopping 15 shots he faced in the first period. The only blemish on his opening period record was a goal from the slot area off the stick of Aleksander Barkov, who beat Mason to his short side on a perfect cross-ice feed from Mark Pysyk.

After the Flyers rebounded with a cleaner second period to take a 2-1 lead, Mason was forced to stand on his head for the final 20 minutes of regulation. The Panthers dominated puck possession yet again in the third, outshooting the Flyers, 17-4, and tying the game at two with just under five minutes remaining.  

"It was a game where you had to come up with big saves,” Mason said. “We spent a lot of time in our own end. It was good to come up with two points, but I think we all understand we have to be better."

While Jussi Jokinen, who was unaccounted for on a Florida rush, tallied the equalizer late in the third period, the Flyers were lucky that wasn’t the go-ahead goal thanks to a highlight-reel save by Mason earlier in the period.

An Aaron Ekblad shot from the point hit a screened Mason in the shoulder and bounced right onto the stick of Jokinen, who went around Mason and shot the puck on an open net.

But Mason made a last-ditch effort and dove at the puck, just getting his glove on it to protect the Flyers’ lead and cap off a spectacular save

"The original shot came through cross body and hit me in the shoulder so I didn't pick that up initially through the screens,” Mason said “Went down to my right there and just made a desperation attempt to get anything on it and fortunately I was able to get the glove on it.

“They had their chances. We were able to come through when we had to. Simmer comes up with some key goals again. At the end of the day we have to be better. The first period we weren't good enough, the second was a little bit better, but then again in the third we have to be better overall."

Mason began the season as a part of a goalie tandem with Michal Neuvirth. Neither goalie got off to a hot enough start to put a claim on the position, but Mason was trusted into the No. 1 role after Nuevirth went down with a lower-body injury against the Wild on Nov. 12.

Through his first 10 games prior to Nuevirth’s injury, Mason was stopping just 87.4 percent of the shots fired his way, while allowing an average three goals per outing.

Since then, Mason’s made 11 of a possible 12 starts and his increase in workload has coincided with his turnaround, boasting a .929 save percentage since becoming the consistent starter. During his current five-game winning streak, the 28-year-old carries a .947 save percentage and a 1.80 goals against average. 

And Mason getting hot at the same time he’s back as the Flyers’ unquestioned starting goaltender isn’t any coincidence either.

"You do read things at a higher level and that's something that you always work for,” Mason said of the increased workload. “To be reading plays and kind of reading things before they happen. It all goes back to practicing and working hard. You work hard sometimes you get rewarded for it.
 
“I've said it numerous times, I want to be playing lots of hockey. This is a position that I'm used to being in and where I'm most comfortable. So just have to keep continuing to put my work in and whenever Hak calls my name be ready."

Best of NHL: Last-place Islanders take down rival Rangers

Best of NHL: Last-place Islanders take down rival Rangers

NEW YORK -- Andrew Ladd scored in the second period and Jaroslav Halak stopped 36 shots to lead the New York Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the crosstown-rival Rangers on Tuesday night.

John Tavares, Jason Chimera and Scott Mayfield also scored at the Barclays Center to help the last-place Islanders improve to 4-0-1 in their last five games.

Jimmy Vesey and Marc Staal scored for the Metropolitan Division-leading Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist finished with 28 saves. The Rangers have alternated wins and losses in regulation in their last eight games.

Halak beat Lundqvist for the ninth time in their last 10 matchups. Halak had won eight straight -- including the last five after joining the Islanders before the 2014-15 season -- before Lundqvist ended the streak in the Rangers' 5-3 win in the season opener Oct. 13 at Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist is now 1-6-1 in his last eight against the Islanders (see full recap).

Schwartz lifts Blues over Canadiens in OT
ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz got his second goal of the game in overtime, leading the St. Louis Blues to a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.

Paul Stastny also scored for St. Louis, which has won four of five. The Blues rallied from a 2-0 deficit and have a point in their last 13 home games.

Tomas Plekanec and Paul Byron scored for Montreal, which completed a five-game trip 2-3.

Goalie Jake Allen made 28 saves to improve to 13-3-3.

Schwartz lifted a backhander past goalie Al Montoya with 1:22 left in overtime.

Stastny and Schwartz scored in a 2:51 span in the third period to tie it at 2 (see full recap).

Blackhawks blank Coyotes to snap modest skid
CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa had two goals, Scott Darling made 22 saves and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-0 on Tuesday night to snap a two-game slide.

Artem Anisimov and Dennis Rasmussen also scored to help Chicago maintain a three-point lead over St. Louis in the Central Division.

Darling made a handful of tough stops but wasn't heavily tested in his first shutout this season and third of his career. He started his third straight game in place of No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford, who had an appendectomy in Philadelphia on Saturday.

The 37-year-old Hossa scored his team-leading 13th and 14th goals in his 27th game -- surpassing his total of 13 last season in 64 contests (see full recap).