Teammates pick up Mason to claim 'special' win

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Teammates pick up Mason to claim 'special' win

It’s pretty safe to say that on more than one occasion in his young NHL career, Steve Mason was on the short end of the kind of game that unfolded Thursday night.

When he played for Columbus.

A game in which he had a comfortable third-period lead and then ended up losing.

Things are different as a Flyer.

Playing against his former team for the first time since being traded to the Flyers last April, Mason saw the Flyers roar back from a 3-0 deficit with five third-period goals and win, 5-4 (see story).

“Yeah, it was not exactly how I drew it up on the board, but you know sometimes your team comes through for you and that feels great,” said Mason, who had 25 saves and got bailed out big time by teammates.

“With the guys on our team, it’s possible,” he said of the Flyers' incredible third-period comeback.

“You know we didn’t have a great second period," Mason added. "But you know they came out and had one hell of a third period. Made this night pretty special.

“It’s a difficult game for a goaltender to be a part of something like that, you know with the goals going in, but there’s nights like these that come along every so often where your team bails you out and … big win.”

In so many ways. First, he had the jitters of playing his former team. That’s out of the way. Second, you had the Flyers going over .500 for the first time this season.

And biggest of all, the Flyers are sitting in a playoff spot for the first time at third place in the Metropolitan Division.

It’s something Craig Berube’s club can build upon.

“Absolutely,” Mason said. “You know it puts you possibly back in the playoffs right now. Divisional point who we play quite a few times throughout the season. One right there on Saturday for another big game [in Columbus].

“You know this is a four-point night technically, and the guys worked extremely hard in that third period that we got the two points and from the defensemen all the way to the forwards they earned the two points.”

Thing is, Mason wasn’t particularly sharp in goal, either. This is the fourth time in his last six starts he’s given up four goals.

Blake Comeau’s weak goal in the third period made it a 4-2 Blue Jackets lead and took the air right out of the Flyers’ sails for a few short minutes.

And then … the Flyers scored three times in the final five minutes to win the game on goals from Erik Gustafsson and two from Claude Giroux.

“Let’s see, we came out and got two big goals and then they came out with the fourth one [Comeau],” Mason said. “The boys just kept going at them and we were able to come away with a big victory.

“To score that many goals in one period is difficult to do no matter who you’re playing against, but the guys made sure that this is a special night.”

It’s only fair his teammates bail him out once in a while given how many times Mason has done it for them this season.

And especially to win this game for Mason, which meant so much because it was his former club and first meeting against them.

“It feels unbelievable,” Mason said. “You know, went around the room and thanked everybody, G [Giroux] said you don’t have to be the one winning us games.

“So it was nice to be in this position where against my old team they came through and got me the two points, and this is from a team’s standpoint a real big victory.”

In so many ways.

Flyers-Wild 5 things: Road trip about to become a horror story?

Flyers-Wild 5 things: Road trip about to become a horror story?

Flyers (33-31-8) at Wild (44-22-6)
8 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 7:30

A four-game road trip takes a daunting turn Thursday night when the Flyers play the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

Here are five things to know for the matchup:

1. Hazardous road
You thought things were already ugly?

It looks like it could get much, much worse.

The Flyers now visit three of the NHL's top five clubs, starting with the Wild, followed by the Blue Jackets and the Penguins.

Those three are a combined 137-58-21 overall and 79-24-5 at home.

And it's safe to say the Flyers don't have any momentum heading into this gauntlet. They're coming off a 3-2 loss to the Jets, a non-contender decimated by injuries, and are 4-15-3 on the road since Dec. 19 with a minus-36 goal differential.

"We need to have a better effort," Steve Mason said postgame Tuesday. "We keep playing like this and we'll be mathematically eliminated before we know it."

2. Hole gets deeper
With a win over the Blue Jackets on Wednesday, the Maple Leafs moved past the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division, making Boston the current leader for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot at 82 points.

The Flyers, with 74 points, trail the Bruins, Islanders (80), Lightning (77) and Hurricanes (75), who have a game in hand, as well. Oh, and the Panthers are just one point behind the Flyers.

Ten regular-season games remain and Dave Hakstol's group needs a miracle.

In search of some type of spark, the Flyers will strut out a different look against the Wild.

"We're running out of time here, so hopefully a couple line changes here gives us a little spark offensively," Matt Read said Wednesday. "We've still got to play better defensively, but you know it's kind of do-or-die right now. So hopefully chemistry clicks right away and things can start going off the bat."

3. A look at the Wild
Minnesota, which went 30-6-3 from the start of December to the end of February, has cooled off a bit but is still one of the most well-rounded teams in the NHL.

The Wild are 3-8-0 in March. For the season, however, they rank among the league's top 10 in goals per game (3.22 -- second), goals against per game (2.47 -- tied for sixth), power-play percentage (21.3 -- ninth) and penalty-kill percentage (83.8 -- seventh).

Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker all have 20 or more goals, while netminder Devan Dubnyk has been a top-five goalie at 37-18-3 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Jakub Voracek has no goals and an assist in his last six games for a minus-5 rating. When he's not providing offense, the Flyers predictably struggle. The good thing: Voracek owns 16 points in 18 career games against Minnesota.

Wild: Ryan Suter has been a stud for the Wild. The defenseman leads the NHL as a plus-34 and is third with 27:07 of ice time per game. The 32-year-old is Minnesota's backbone and the Wild are 21-6-1 in games that he has at least one point.

5. This and that
• Mason will make his 11th start in the last 12 games. He is 7-6-1 lifetime against Minnesota with a 2.59 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.

• Dubnyk is 2-4-1 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in seven career games against the Flyers.

• Brandon Manning is back in the lineup for Michael Del Zotto (see Skate Update). Manning missed the last fives games with a shoulder injury.

• Former Flyer Ryan White is out for the Wild with an illness.

Flyers Skate Update: Brandon Manning back in lineup vs. Wild

Flyers Skate Update: Brandon Manning back in lineup vs. Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Facing a critical road game in Minnesota on Thursday night, the Flyers will welcome back a key defenseman to their lineup.

Brandon Manning, who has missed the past five games with a shoulder injury, will return and pair with Radko Gudas on the blue line.

“We’re playing a heavy team tonight,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “They’ve got some size up front. They’re a heavy team down low. So, we’ll need that pair to play that way. They’ve got to be an abrasive pair and they have to be on the heavy side defensively.”

Michael Del Zotto will be the odd man out as the Flyers have seven healthy defensemen again. Manning, with three goals and seven assists in 57 games this season, said he’s not worried about conditioning or the injury.

“I’m not too worried about that,” Manning said. “I’m feeling good, I’m feeling strong. Did some contact a few days ago and not even thinking about it.”

Toronto’s win in Columbus on Tuesday night allowed the Maple Leafs to surpass Boston in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins now hold the No. 8 spot in the playoff race with 82 points with nine games remaining. The Flyers are eight points back, with three teams in between, and 10 games left in the season.

Their play on the road is one big reason why the Flyers are out of a playoff spot. They are 12-20-4 on the road this season, tied for the second-fewest road wins among Eastern Conference teams. They’re winless in their last six road games (0-5-1) as they play the second game of a four-game trip.

“I don’t think there’s panic,” Manning said. “I think the focus is on each and every night, not really looking too far down the road. Obviously, the last couple weeks, we’ve probably given up points we don’t want to give up and put ourselves in a pretty tough spot. But we got a good group of guys in here, and guys that have played pro hockey long enough that know what it’s like.”

With Del Zotto's being scratched for Manning, Nick Schultz will play what could be his final game in the Xcel Energy Center, where he spent 10 seasons with the Wild. Schultz, a second-round draft pick by Minnesota in 2000, ranks second in franchise history with 743 games played.

Hakstol said Schultz’s history wasn’t a factor in keeping the defenseman in the lineup.

“He’s filled his role well the last few games,” Hakstol said. “He’s been good in that role with Ghost. So, he’s staying in for that reason.”

Goaltender Steve Mason will start for the 11th time in 12 games. He has a 2.25 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in his last 10 games.

Lineup
F: Read-Giroux-Voracek
Weal-Filppula-Simmons
Schenn-Couturier-Weise
Konecny-Bellemare-VandeVelde

D: Provorov-MacDonald
Schultz-Gostisbehere
Manning-Gudas

G: Mason