Mason plays strong in Flyers' win over Rangers

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Mason plays strong in Flyers' win over Rangers

BOX SCORE

If you’re looking for a bright star behind a darkened April sky, you just might find it behind the No. 35.

That’s where Flyers goalie Steve Mason resides.

The 24-year-old made his first home start at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday and got the better of King Henrik Lundqvist.

The Rangers made a tenacious third-period “push” and Mason was the guy pushing back with 16 saves that period and 38 overall as the Flyers won, 4-2, to tighten the Eastern Conference playoff standings just a bit.

They are now five points out of a playoff spot with five games to play. Who knows?

This much is certain: Without Mason in the third period, the Flyers lose this game.

“It was his best period,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “They came hard. There was lots of plays from the slot, plays in tight, through screens and he was able to pick up a lot.

“Some of the shots from the outside, he was able to push them to the side and not kick out any in front. Really strong effort.”

Mason was making his third start in four appearances since being picked up at the trade deadline by the Flyers. He was able to give the Flyers their first win this season in which Ilya Bryzgalov wasn't in net.

Derek Stepan drew the Rangers to within 3-2 at 7:28 of the final period, just seconds after Mason had made several outstanding saves during a Ranger power play.

And then … with less than eight minutes to play, Mason went down and began flexing his right leg. Trainer Jim McCrossin came out as did Bryzgalov, who began warming up on the ice.

It was hard to tell if he was injured or cramping up but Mason stayed in the game.

“Just some major cramping,” Mason said to the relief of everyone. “Whether that was a mixture of nerves playing at home and wanting to play well, I’m not sure.”

They would have had to carry him out of the net on a stretcher, no?

“Yeah, it was an important game for myself and the team,” he replied. “As a hockey player, you want to be part of it. It was a must-win. A playoff race with them being the eighth playoff spot right now. It was a good performance to win.”

If the Eastern Conference standings were closer, it would be easy to get excited here but New York has such an easy schedule to end it -- Florida twice and struggling New Jersey
twice -- it’s impossible seeing the Rangers not making the playoffs.

Mason, however, gave the Flyers a chance at Buffalo in losing 1-0 and he did it again against the Rangers. He has a 1.82 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in four games.

“Well, you know I was saying before that I saw it before,” said Jakub Voracek, who scored his 19th goal on an empty-netter.

“He was rock solid for us tonight. Every game he played he gave us a chance to win, which is huge. We finally got some goals for him and we won.”

Voracek knows. He played with Mason in Columbus.

“You know, he was exactly the same as he was in the first year when he won the Rookie of the Year,” Voracek said of Mason’s Calder Trophy in 2008-09.

“And, you know, he was all over the place. He made a huge stop for us and he was a big key for us, too, and winning two more points today.”

The Rangers had won 11 of the last 12 games played between the two, dating back to March of 2011.

So what’s the secret of beating Lundqvist?

“We know he plays pretty deep in his net,” Brayden Schenn said. “The backdoor passes, he seems to get over there pretty quick. You just have to shoot the puck and create traffic, get rebounds and that's probably the best way to do it.”

Schenn’s eighth goal at 9:28 of the first period was a bit of a broken play, but the Flyers, whose goal scoring has been up and down this season, will take it.

Danny Briere brought it into the zone along the right boards and gave way to rookie defenseman Brandon Manning, a call-up for the concussed Kent Huskins.

Manning’s shot was blocked by Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto, but the rebound went nicely over to Schenn in the left slot and he ripped it past Lundqvist for a 1-0 lead.

“Manning got it on net,” Schenn said. “It was a fortunate bounce back to me and I will definitely take it.”

Erik Gustafsson’s play has picked up in recent weeks and it may have something to do with having to log more ice time because of mounting injuries on the blue line. That extra ice time is paying off.

Late in the period, Gustafsson took a saucer pass from Sean Couturier and put a shot with some Swedish on it. The puck muscled through Lundqvist’s pad for a 2-0 lead at 17:21.

“I saw a breakout on our end. I think Reader (Matt Read) have it to Coots (Couturier),” Gustafsson said. “Coots did a great job of carrying it down the wing. I saw an opportunity to join rush. It was a great pass from across. I just shot the puck and I was so happy to see it go in.”

Mason had nine saves in the first period, including two good ones on Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan during a Ranger power play that stanza.

The Rangers cut their deficit in half early in the second period when Mats Zuccarello, using the rather tall Oliver Lauridsen as a screen, put one through Mason’s legs at 2:34.

When the Flyers' power play is on its mark, the entire complexion of a game changes. It’s no coincidence that during their recent four-game losing skid, the Flyers were 0 for 16 with the man advantage.

They scored seven goals Monday in Montreal and the power play gave them two. In this one, the Flyers squandered an opportunity right after Zuccarello’s goal by trying to be too perfect with passes and giving up on shots.

Seconds after that power play ended, however, the Flyers got another one. This time, they didn’t get fancy. Claude Giroux won a faceoff from the still-struggling Brad Richards and the puck slid up the high slot toward the point.

Kimmo Timonen, sensing a possible screen, skated in and unleashed off the fly to make it 3-1 at the 10-minute mark. That’s how it’s supposed to be done.

In the period’s final four minutes, Mason had a nice stick/pad deflection of a Rick Nash howitzer coming into the zone.

You can’t underestimate what those saves mean to a club.

“The last three years in Columbus have been a drain from a mental standpoint,” Mason said.

“There have been so many negatives there, so to come here and get a fresh start with a new organization and new teammates, it’s just a breath of fresh air. I’m really looking forward to it and savoring it.”

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders are on quite a nice roll.

Anders Lee scored two power-play goals to lead the Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, giving New York its third straight win and fourth in the last five games.

"We've been keeping it simple of late," said Lee, who has four goals in two games against the Kings this season. "We've been getting shots on net and being more effective. I'll do my thing down low."

John Tavares had a goal and an assist, Jason Chimera also scored and Jean-Francois Berube stopped 34 shots to earn his first win in his third start of the season (see full recap).

Hartnell snaps tie as Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Blue Jackets would just as soon forget the second period of Saturday's game, when the Carolina Hurricanes rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie it.

Columbus didn't play much better in the third but withstood 15 shots and killed three penalties. Midway through, Scott Hartnell scored his second goal of the game , and the Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2.

Columbus got the win despite being outshot 37-20.

Hartnell scored in the first period and then netted the tiebreaker, helping the Blue Jackets overcome a horrendous second period - in which they managed only two shots on goal - to beat Carolina for the second time this week (see full recap).

Beagle scores in overtime, Capitals beat Stars 4-3
DALLAS -- Jay Beagle scored 19 seconds into overtime and the Washington Capitals rallied to beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 on Saturday night.

Evgeny Kuznetsov skated behind the net and put the puck in front to Beagle. His wrist shot beat goalie Kari Lehtonen, who got tangled with a defender and lost his footing.

The Stars led 3-1 and didn't allow Washington a power play until the third period, but then Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie scored with the man advantage in the first 5:26 of the period.

Adam Cracknell and Jamie Benn scored for Dallas on plays that originally were ruled no goal. Patrick Eaves had a goal and an assist for the Stars (see full recap).

Bogosian scores in overtime, Sabres edge Canadiens 3-2
MONTREAL -- The Sabres couldn't score from in close on All-Star goalie Carey Price late in regulation Saturday night.

So Zach Bogosian teed it up from a ways out in overtime to lift Buffalo.

Bogosian scored his first goal of the season in overtime and the Sabres beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in the second game of a back-to-back for both teams.

Buffalo nearly broke through against Price near the end of the third period. Price made a pad save on Matt Moulson on a breakaway at 19:40, and then with six seconds remaining, he robbed Rasmus Ristolainen with a windmill glove save (see full recap).

 

Flyers collapse in second period vs. Devils, fall in wild card

Flyers collapse in second period vs. Devils, fall in wild card

This was game the Flyers needed to win.

A team they were more than capable of beating.

Two points they absolutely had to have if they’re going to reclaim the wild card they so carelessly tossed aside in the past month.

And it was all lost when they became unglued over a bad penalty, then an even worse call, during a tied game late in the second period.

Poof! Two goals later, it’s 3-1 New Jersey as the Flyers collapsed in a 4-1 loss Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center to the Devils and slipped one point behind Toronto (51) in the wild card (see Instant Replay).

Veteran referee Dan O’Halloran, who calls an honest game, whistled Radko Gudas for clipping on a legal hip check for a Devils power play.

Then, Flyer MVP candidate Wayne Simmonds argued and drew an unsportsmanlike conduct call.

New Jersey scored on the subsequent 5-on-3 power play, then the Devils added a bad goal off a horrendous line change in the final 48 ticks of the stanza to completely change the complexion of the game.

“I’ll take blame for that,” Simmonds said. “I didn’t agree with the [Gudas] penalty, I got an extra two that’s my fault. They score a goal, make it 2-1, that’s a momentum changer, I take all of the blame for that.”

O’Halloran should have warned Simmonds to walk away, but didn’t. That’s what a good, veteran official does. He blew it. Twice.

“What was said both ways?” Simmonds asked. “The referee was talking to me; I was talking to him. I am not commenting on calls; it is what it is. It happened, it’s over with now. I am not going to say anything about that.”

That the Flyers collapsed so easily at that point just goes to show you how vulnerable and how fragile this team is right now. This was fifth loss in six games for Dake Hakstol's squad.

“It’s a turning point in the hockey game, but no one play or one situation dictates a hockey game,” Hakstol insisted.

Indeed, the poor line change was just as bad or worse. Jakub Voracek was going off the ice at the blue line when the puck was unexpectedly tossed at his feet.

“I didn’t [expect it] and tried to redirect it and it kinda fumbled and we changed and they got a breakaway out of it,” Voracek said.

Miles Wood sped past several Flyers up the right side on Michal Neuvirth, who had not had to make a momentum save till then. He couldn’t. It was 3-1.

If Voracek gets the puck deep enough, the entire sequence is voided.

“It’s two-fold,” countered Hakstol. “It’s the turnover and not being able to get the puck deep. And then it’s the line change.”

A lot of bad things are happening to the Flyers right now. Just a little adversity seems to collapse them like a house of cards.

That wasn’t the case in December when they won 10 games in succession.

“When you lose so many games, you lose confidence,” said Neuvirth, who was pulled for “precautionary reasons” said general manager Ron Hextall, as Steve Mason played the final period.

Neuvirth was limping after the game after tweaking his left knee again, sources said.

“For us it was a tough break to come back, the Devils playing really good hockey, but I think we got to keep believing and keep pushing forward. I still believe in this group,” Neuvirth said.

Question is, do they believe in each other?

Even after giving up the game’s first goal, the Flyers came back tied it, 1-1, on a jam-in goal past Keith Kinkaid by Travis Konecny, had some momentum, then lost everything in that brutal second period.

That’s not to say they didn’t have their chances. Six power plays? No goal? Then again, the power play is 0-for-11 over the past two games. Claude Giroux’s first unit was awful in this one.

And then there’s eight penalties the Flyers took, as well.

“Yeah, we had penalty trouble,” Konecny said. “I think it has kind of crept into our game in the past four or five games. It is not like it is one specific guy. Everyone is taking penalties. We are working hard, and some of those penalties are working hard.

“There are some things we can clean up a little bit, but at the same time when we have taken penalties our  guys have been great. You can’t stop everyone. Everyone’s got good power plays and our guys have been phenomenal on the PK. We just have to take a little less.”

“It’s tough," Neuvrith added. "Seems like taking bad penalties at the wrong times and it’s costing us the games.”

Hakstol insists the team’s confidence hasn’t waned even if it seems that’s exactly what has happened.

“No, I’ve answered that question before,” Hakstol said with a certain amount of irritation. “It’s hard, if we want to rest on confidence sagging, that’s the wrong answer. Our answer is pull together, dig in and get back to work.”