PHILADELPHIA – It’s been awhile since Steve Mason had to steal a game for the Flyers.
Good thing he was up for the task Thursday.
In a game in which the Flyers may have got a little too comfortable after an early lead, Mason made 33 stops, several that rang 10 bells, and backstopped the Flyers to their fourth consecutive win – 4-3 over Dallas - on what was considered by many to the hockey schedule equivalent of the tilt-a-table game Labryinth.
A 12-game stretch filled with pitfalls, traps, and the treachery of some of the best teams in the NHL finds the Flyers 4-0 through the first four games.
It also finds the Flyers (37-25-7, 81 points) still in second place in the Metropolitan Division, and now with some breathing room as the playoffs seem ever closer. They have a three point lead over both the New York Rangers and Columbus, and have a five-point cushion over the Washington Capitals, who are the first team on the outside looking in to playoff positioning right now.
Mason was sensational in net, especially on a 5-on-3 power play by the Stars in the second period where he made consecutive eye-popping saves on Alex Chiasson and Jamie Benn, sliding with great quickness and agility from post to post both times to stop the puck from going in the net.
He even had a brilliant stop on Tyler Seguin on a mini-breakaway in the second period.
Yeah, he was good.
“He was unbelievable,” said Braydon Coburn. “He played great. He was a rock for us back there tonight. He’s been doing that a lot lately so it was good.
“A goalie can always be the difference. I thought Mason played great. They got some great chances and he was able to really shut the door on them and they were key saves at key times. Maybe the understated thing is that he made big saves at big parts of the game.”
The only scores he allowed was a power play tally by Benn that sneaked under him after a couple sprawling saves and another score by Benn off a strange carom off the end boards.
Otherwise, he was perfect.
Meanwhile, Wayne Simmonds continued his career-best season with a pair of goals, first jamming home the rebound of a Scott Hartnell shot on the power play, and later, netting the game-winner with a seed from the top of the slot that proved to be the game-winner.
“I think I’m playing more consistently,” Simmonds said. “My first year here I did get the 28 goals, but I think there were some lapses in the season where I’d probably go 15, 16 games. I think there was one time I went like 17 games without a goal, and I just try to make sure I play a more complete game and more consistently.”
But it was inconsistency that almost did in the Flyers Thursday as they grew a bit lackadaisical in the second period once they built a 2-0 advantage.
|The Flyers celebrated Mark Streit's goal which opened the scoring for the Flyers. THe Flyers improved to 26-5-4 when scoring the first goal of the game. |
After Mark Streit opened the scoring for the Flyers with a one-timer from the point off a clean faceoff win by Claude Giroux -who extended his point streak to five games and eight-out-of-nine – and Simmonds scored his power play marker, things started to get loosey-goosey for the Flyers.
That’s when Mason saved their bacon with his goaltending, but it was definitely a storm cloud on the horizon. Sitting back like that can burn the Flyers against some of the upcoming opponents, beginning with the St. Louis Blues, who come into Philadelphia Saturday toting the best record in the NHL.
“Well I thought tonight wasn’t as good, for sure,” said coach Craig Berube. “We were sloppy tonight at times. But overall our team’s competing hard and working hard and playing like a team, and that’s what you’ve got to do.”
Nevertheless, Berube feels he still needs to reinforce this message to his team, despite the fact that it is 12-3-1 in its past 16 games.
“You’ve got to talk about them and show things and stay on them,” Berube said. “They know it wasn’t good enough tonight, but we won. But really, it wasn’t good enough.”
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