PHILADELPHIA – Steve Mason had just given up a goal, so it might have been an odd time for him to acknowledge a hockey crowd chanting his name.
Usually, it’s done derisively after a goalie lets up a goal. Usually it’s fans egging on a goalie in an attempt to give him rabbit ears.
But this one was different. This one was unique. This one was special.
This one was not being done to get in Mason’s head, but rather showing appreciation for some fantastic goaltending.
You see, Mason was sensational backstopping the Flyers to a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers in Game 6 of their Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round series with the New York Rangers, setting up a deciding Game 7 Wednesday in New York.
Mason made 34 saves and was only outshined by a Wayne Simmonds hat trick. So, when there was a timeout following a meaningless goal by Mats Zuccarello in the final minute of the game, the crowd, which was already on its feet, began chanting “Ma-son, Ma-son” in appreciation of a fine performance by their goalie.
Mason stood there for a moment, taking it all in. And then, unexpectedly, he lifted his stick in the air to acknowledge the crowd – which sent them into a more thankful roar.
|Steve Mason was incredibly sharp and quick in goal, making 34 saves and sending the Flyers to Game 7 Wednesday. |
“Those are moments that send chills down your spine,” Mason said. “You have 20,000 people chanting your name. That doesn’t happen too often, so you kind of take it in. They were showing their appreciation, so you just put your stick up in the air to acknowledge them.
“That’s the type of moment that when you look back on your career will be really special.”
Mason’s work allowed that memory to be made for him, his teammates, and all who witnessed it at Wells Fargo Center Tuesday.
The Flyers knew they were going to come out of the gates with a different demeanor than they did in any of the first five games of the series. And while it was definitely fueled by passion and desperation, it also was a little loosey-goosey. There were too many turnovers and too many pucks coming back at Mason. Yet, he was equal to every one. He had 13 saves in the first period, single-handedly keeping the Flyers in the game.
Then, as the team settled into their game a bit more and were able to start getting pucks past Henrik Lundqvist on the other end, Mason got even better.
There was a beauty of a glove save on a Rangers power play on a snipe attempt by Benoit Pouliot that sent the crowd into a euphoric state.
It brought a swell of emotion into the building and 35 seconds later Erik Gustafsson, making his first appearance of the playoffs, scored on a breakaway coming out of the penalty box and it was 3-0.
After Simmonds hat trick, and a goalie switch by the Mets, Mason was at it again in the third period with another beautiful glove save on a mini breakaway by Carl Hagelin.
The Rangers kept trying to beat him glove side and Mason kept gobbling up their shots.
“The whole game he was great,” said coach Craig Berube. “He has to be. He did a good job in the first period and he put us in a good spot to win the game.”
The Rangers got two cheapies in the final seven minutes of the game, but they were practically irrelevant.
Mason has now stonewalled New York twice in three starts, and his one loss – in New York in Game 5 – he was solid.
Now the Flyers need him to go out and play like that just one more time tomorrow – and they can set up a second round date with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
And Mason plans on doing that, as soon as he puts this win behind him, which should have occurred as soon as he stepped foot on the team charter train.
“I got to put it behind me on the train,” Mason said. “I have a couple of episodes of “Scandal” to catch up on so…”
Yep, that ought to do it.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers