PHILADELPHIA – Steve Mason started feeling it in the second period.
The sharp pain was in his leg. It was in his hip. It was in his gut – and it wouldn’t go away.
But Mason was in the middle of a tight game, was shutting out Colorado at the time and wasn’t about to let a little discomfort get in the way of him helping his team win.
So he gutted it out. Taking breaks to eat a banana. Take some medicine and drink plenty of water to try and have the discomfort go away.
All the while the Colorado Avalanche were peppering him with 39 shots.
And while ultimately he did allow a goal by rookie Nathan MacKinnon from a weird angle – a puck that Mason admitted should have been stopped, it was the only blemish on an otherwise stellar outing by the Flyers goalie in a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
“It started in the second period and just got progressively worse as the third period went on,” Mason said. “You just clock watch more than anything and you’re just looking for a stoppage to calm down and slow your breathing down to slow the rate of the cramping. It was a long third period.”
Not just for Mason, but for Colorado too.
That’s because Mason, who was crumpled over in pain after making one save, was able to stone the Avs, returning the favor for a virtuoso performance by Semyon Varlamov in a game last month in Denver where the ‘Lanche stifled the Flyers.
He was especially quick with the glove hand, robbing Colorado of several could-be goals, but he really left Ryan O’Reilly feeling snakebit twice with his right-handed robbery – as broadcaster Jim Jackson likes to call it.
Not until McKinnon sneaked a shot past Mason on the short side in the final minutes was he penetrable. And even then, missing out on a chance at his third shutout in five games, Mason rebounded brilliantly and made a heck of a post-to-post save on P.A. Parenteau to deny the tying goal.
“It was just a cross-crease pass and I didn’t even really see the shot,” Mason said. “I just knew the pass was coming across and it’s just good positioning. A blocking save, the puck just hits you when you’re in a good position.”
And he’s been in a good position a lot lately. In his last five starts his is 4-1 with a 1.41 goals against average and a .955 save percentage.
"It's not just tonight,” said captain Claude Giroux who scored an empty net goal. “I think it's been a lot of games this year. His work ethic is great, the saves he makes are pretty impressive. Especially when there was two minutes left and he slid across to make that save... I'm just happy he's on our side."
He did enough early as well to keep the Flyers in the game after a bit of a sleepy start in the first period, but Mark Streit put the Flyers on the board first with a power play goal – his eighth marker of the season and the eighth consecutive game the Flyers scored with the man advantage.
“In a game like that when you kind of have a slow start and you get scored on one or two goals it’s tough to recover and that’s what you need [from your goalie],” Streit said. “He’s been playing great for us but especially a game like that, he’s great at the beginning, he’s calm, he made key saves and it gives us the chance to win the game.”
Michael Raffl also scored, his third goal in four games and it was his third game-winning goal of the season, as the Flyers (29-23-6, 64 points) stretched their winning streak to three straight games.
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