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.

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello scored twice in the second period and the New York Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6 on Saturday night to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Derek Stepan also scored and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots to help New York get past the first round for the fifth time in six years. The Rangers won three straight after falling behind 2-1 to beat Montreal for the ninth time in 16 postseason series.

The Rangers will face the winner of the Ottawa-Boston series, which the Senators lead 3-2.

Alexei Emelin scored for Montreal and Carey Price finished with 20 saves. The Canadiens, winners of the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs last year, were bounced from the postseason by the Rangers for the second time in four years. In 2014, it was in the conference finals (see full recap).

Paajarvi's OT goal gives Blues 4-3 win to oust Wild in 5
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Magnus Paajarvi scored at the 9:42 mark in overtime, giving the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday in Game 5 of their playoff series, eliminating the Wild.

The Blues advanced to play Nashville in the second round.

Jake Allen made 34 saves for the Blues, who led 2-0 and 3-1 before a furious rally by the Wild to try to keep their season alive forced the extra frame.

Paajarvi's first career playoff goal gave Blues coach Mike Yeo the satisfaction of beating the team that fired him a little over a year ago.

Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker scored to bring the Wild back from their second two-goal hole, a deficit that held past the midpoint of the third period (see full recap).

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

As the Flyers packed up for the offseason much earlier than they had hoped, the focus started shifting to the outlook for 2017-18.

There was some optimism provided by Valtteri Filppula.

It wasn't anything he said. Instead, it was what he did in 20 games.

Make that a full sample size and the Flyers are excited about the possibilities.

Filppula, a well-rounded, 33-year-old center, was acquired at the March 1 trade deadline in the Mark Streit deal. He added five goals and three assists in his 20 games.

"I felt like later in the year, we had more bullets in our gun," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week as the team held exit interviews and cleanout day. "(Jordan) Weal comes in and does a good job. Filppula comes in and really gives us stability. Really upgraded our top nine. So when you're talking 5-on-5 play, just to depend on five or six guys, all of a sudden you have nine guys you can count on."

The Flyers were 27th in the NHL with 128 goals at 5-on-5 -- a significant factor in their postseason absence.

But Filppula should bring more than simply a 5-on-5 boost.

The Flyers desperately needed depth at the center position to relieve some pressure from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Filppula, who came from the Lightning and played seven seasons with the Red Wings -- winning a Stanley Cup in 2008 -- is a sound matchup center and plays on the penalty kill, too.

"I think with Fil coming in this year, it really helped our depth," Giroux said. "He brings a lot to the team. He kills penalties, power plays, very good defensively and he's a smart player. When you bring a guy in like that, you kind of get excited a little bit."

From Filppula's first game on March 2 to the end of the regular season, the Flyers scored 56 goals, 12th most in the NHL over that span and 2.80 per game -- both improvements from their ranking of 21th on the full season and 2.59 per game.

"Now that we feel like we have nine guys that are legit top-nine forwards," Hextall said, "we've got good balance."

Couturier saw immediate benefits when the Flyers acquired Filppula. Couturier started playing with Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn, which turned out to be the team's best line combination to finish the regular season.

"I think it just brought some depth to our lineup," Couturier said of Filppula acquisition. "I had the chance to play after that with Schenn and Weiser and we just found chemistry right away and things went really well."

It provided head coach Dave Hakstol greater flexibility.

"The addition of Val Filppula to our group up front made our group of forwards better," Hakstol said. "Not just his presence, which I think he's an outstanding hockey player, a good hockey player and a real good veteran, but it just allowed some of the others to come together. I think there's real substance there."

The Flyers hope it shows with a full season of Filppula.

"I think when Filppula came in, the balance that seemed to come with him entering our lineup helped us both with and without the puck," Hakstol said. "Will that cohesion help us generate more offensively on an 82-game basis, not just a short-term basis? I think the answers to those things are yes."