And yet, despite the heroics, despite every effort to cover for his teammates’ miscues, despite the chance at his first Flyers shutout, there was still some kryptonite on the ice at the PNC Arena and unfortunately it was provided by his own teammates.
Just 52 seconds from a victory, the Flyers snatched defeat from the hands of victory against a Carolina Hurricanes team that had lost five straight games coming into the contest.
Claude Giroux lost coverage of Jordan Staal on a tying goal in that final minute. Then, Mark Streit made an ill-advised attempt to carry the puck into the Carolina zone, was checked off the puck, springing Manny Malhotra for a breakaway and the game-winning goal for the Hurricanes in overtime, a 2-1 final.
Sure, the Flyers still got a point out of the deal, but it was a game against a vulnerable division opponent, and rather than draw two points closer to them in the standings, they instead fell a point further off the pace.
The tying goal was the killer. The overtime goal just piled on the ever-mounting frustration.
After a power play awakening, as Kimmo Timonen’s shot was deflected into the goal by Scott Hartnell, giving both men their first points of the season with just 3:58 to play, it seemed like Mason’s efforts were going to be worthwhile.
Yet, a little more than three minutes later, Mason was lying face down on the ice in disbelief.
After every big save he made – and there were a plethora of them among the 36 stops he had against the Hurricanes – it was a simple play that was the result of a breakdown in coverage by Claude Giroux that cost him perfection in goal.
The Staal brothers were stymied all night by Mason. He made a remarkable waffle board save on Jordan in the firs
|Steve Mason made blocker saves like this one all night against the Hurricanes, but got very little offensive support in the 2-1 overtime loss. |
t period on a 2-on-1 shorthanded breakaway for Carolina and then followed that with a sensational glove save on Eric in the third period, both goals keeping the game scoreless.
Those stops aside – and the myriad others that kept the Flyers in a game they really had no business being in after the opening period – it was the one that he almost made that stung the most.
Eric Staal took the puck behind the net and feathered a pass into the slot where Jordan Staal had sneaked behind Giroux.
“It happened pretty quick,” Giroux said, taking responsibility for the play. “I thought I was closer to him. I was holding the front of the net and the pass went through me.”
Jordan directed the pass toward the net. Mason slid to stop it and got a piece of it with his glove… but only a piece.
The puck still went in, tying the game and leaving Mason to lie there, exasperated, befuddled, and uncertain of his luck as a groom at a hastily assembled wedding.
“I got a piece of it, just not enough of it,” Mason said.
He didn’t get any of Malhotra’s backhand on the overtime goal, but by then, critical mistakes – like the turnover by Mark Streit that sprung Malhotra on the breakaway – were too overwhelming to overcome.
“Wins are hard to come by right now,” Mason said. “I just have to stay in a positive mindset and keep coming and working hard.”
The Flyers will take the point. They know they left one on the table, but they’ll take it. After letting the sting of the loss wear off, there are some things they can focus on as positives, starting with Mason, of course.
“He played his best game this year,” Giroux said. “We gave up way too many chances in front of the net and if it wasn’t for Steve this game doesn’t get to overtime.”
The power play, which has been woeful of late, scored a key goal late in the game. Hartnell and Timonen got out of the gate… finally.
As for big picture, it’s points in four of the last six games, and take away the Washington debacle Friday, the Flyers have allowed just seven goals in five games.
But this one wasn’t a moral victory. This was a loss that will stick in the craw for a bit longer than normal.
“It’s upsetting,” coach Craig Berube said. “The coverage was there, everything was fine. But we got to make sure we stay with our man and we didn’t and they end up tying it up. Then there’s a turnover in overtime – and breakaway. That can’t happen.”
Berube chose not to address the team after the game, letting them have the taste of losing sink in on its own.
“I’ll talk to them tomorrow,” Berube said.
It’s a safe bet it won’t be the most pleasant of conversations.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers