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Busy Mason thwarts Rangers, leads Flyers to win

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- The scoring chances were coming fast at Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Steve Mason, and the shots were piling up in the first 20 minutes.

That's just what he wanted.

Mason made 13 saves in the first period and allowed the Flyers, despite nine giveaways, to lead 1-0 after one period en route to a 5-2 win against the New York Rangers on Tuesday in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference First Round series.

"He's done it time after time this year. They came in waves, and he made some huge saves for us," said Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, who scored three goals. "It allowed us to get our footing under us, and we went from there. We got our offensive opportunities and we capitalized tonight. If it wasn't for Mason, I don't know if those plays would have happened."

Mason finished with 34 saves and earned his second career postseason victory. He'll go for his third playoff win when the Flyers visit the Rangers for Game 7 on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN2, CSN-PH, MSG).

Some of Mason's most memorable saves in Game 6 came in the third period, but he said seeing the number of pucks he did in the first 20 minutes allowed him to be so good in the final 20.

"It's always important to feel the puck early, I find," Mason said. "If you're getting big saves early on, it's something you can build off of toward the rest of the game. I was able to make a couple timely saves to start off the game and felt good for the rest of it. It was nice to be busy a little bit earlier in the game."

Mason was at his best when he was aggressive, making a great glove stop on New York forward Carl Hagelin early in the period, then lunging out to stop a long Brad Richards shot that changed direction in close during the Rangers' first-period power play. He also came out to challenge Anton Stralman on a shot from the right circle and smothered it.

The Flyers offense opened up in the second, with Simmonds scoring twice to finish his hat trick and Erik Gustafsson adding a goal.

Mason's best save of the game might have come in the second. With the Rangers on a power play, he came out to snap the glove on a Benoit Pouliot attempt with 6:23 remaining in the period.

Seconds later, the New York power play ended, Gustafsson jumped out of the box, grabbed a long pass from Braydon Coburn and scored to make it 3-0.

"Those are plays that seem to happen over the course of a season," Mason said. "We had yet to have one happen in playoff time. I think that was a huge goal for us to give us more of a cushion."

The Rangers pushed to claw back from the four-goal deficit, but Mason held strong. His best series of saves came with about 10:30 left when he aggressively challenged John Moore from the left side and shouldered away a hard chance, and then jumped over to the post on the other side to deny Pouliot on the doorstep. Later in the period, he flashed a quick glove to deny Hagelin on a shorthanded breakaway with 9:27 remaining.

Mason did allow two goals as part of a 13-shot barrage in the third period as New York attempted to mount a comeback. A Hagelin shot slipped between his arm and the post at 13:26 of the third, and Mats Zuccarello scored from in close in the final minute.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault recognized how well Mason played.

"He had a real good period in the first," Vigneault said. "Gave his team a chance to come out of there one goal ahead. He's a good goaltender."

The sold-out crowd at Wells Fargo Center certainly thought so too, as they chanted Mason's name in the game's final seconds. The goaltender answered them with a wave of his stick.

"Those are moments that send chills down your spine, when you got 20,000 people are chanting your name," Mason said. "Those type of moments don't happen too often, so it was nice to take it in. They're showing their appreciation, and you throw your stick up in the air and acknowledge it. Those are the types of moments when you're done playing you can look back on."


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