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Flyers head off on trip with win against Jets

by Patrick Williams

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers needed a win before they begin a long December road trip, and goaltender Steve Mason delivered by defeating the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Friday.

Mason made his second start of the season against the Jets and stopped 25 shots for the Flyers (11-12-2), who broke a two-game losing streak leading into a six-game road trip that will take them away for nearly two weeks.

The Jets (12-12-4), who are in the middle of their own six-game journey, had a two-game winning streak snapped. Jets forward Michael Frolik halved the Philadelphia lead with 7:07 remaining and ended Mason's shutout bid with his seventh goal.

Flyers coach Craig Berube emphasized the need for a strong first period from his team, especially after a pair of lackluster road losses this week.

The win left the Philadelphia dressing room in an upbeat mood leading into the road trip.

"I think it's a good time to get on the road with the team," Berube said. "I think it's a good time to get focused and get to where we need to get to. I don't view it as grueling; I view it as an opportunity."

Ondrej Pavelec returned to the Winnipeg net after a one-game break and saw 34 Philadelphia shots, turning aside 32. Pavelec's first-period work prevented the Flyers from turning the game into a rout, but he was one of few Jets to shine.

"We just weren't good enough to win the game," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "When you look at momentum, we didn't generate much, momentum-wise."

The Flyers pounced early, building a 2-0 lead by the five-minute mark of the second period with a hard forecheck and aggressive play against Jets forwards that prevented them from setting up offensively.

"We're getting pucks deep, we're blocking shots, guys are paying the price," said Flyers forward Scott Hartnell, whose goal in the game's first minute created a Philadelphia lead. "Mason was our best player again, and we got a big win."

In helping the Flyers earn their second win in six tries against the Western Conference, Hartnell's his fifth goal made it 1-0. Sean Couturier's shorthanded goal five minutes into the second period set up a two-goal lead the Flyers nursed late into the third.

"These are tough games to get going for; you're out of bed, breakfast, and then you're playing a game," Mason said of the 11:30 a.m. start. "I thought the guys did a really good job coming out in the first period, taking it to them and setting us up for the rest of the game."

Mason picked up the Flyers over the second half of the game after Winnipeg rallied. Aided by four consecutive power plays, the Jets put 24 of their 26 shots at Mason in the final two periods.

The Flyers departed after the game to meet the Nashville Predators on Saturday. The game starts a trek that includes a pair of six-game trips over a five-week span stretching into January; in all, the Flyers will play 14 of their next 18 on the road.

"This is a huge stretch for us," Hartnell said. "We're going to look back at this season and say that December was a huge month for us."

For the Jets, the loss continued a pattern in which they have not been able to assemble the sustained winning streaks necessary to push them back into the Western Conference race.

Left wing Evander Kane, tied for second on the Jets with seven goals, exited the game after Philadelphia defenseman Braydon Coburn hit him along the boards late in the first period. Kane did not return with what the Jets described as a lower-body injury and his status for their next game against the New York Rangers is unknown.

The Jets' power play continued its struggles. Ranked 28th at the start of the game, Winnipeg went scoreless on six power-play opportunities that produced three shots.

"Our power play was disappointing, and we can't get anything out of it and haven't been able to through the year," Noel said. "It's not like it's anything new. Finding solutions to that issue and that problem is certainly a challenge for us.

"You have what you have," Noel added. "You just have to try to find the right combination and we haven't found that. That's obvious."

The Flyers seemed to have the Jets power play figured out.

"[The Winnipeg] power play, they shoot a lot of pucks, and they have good shots back there," Couturier said. "We just wanted to put pressure and not give them time to set up and get shots, so I think we did a good job to not let them set up."

Hartnell needed 48 seconds to put the Flyers ahead 1-0 on the their second shot of the game. Heavy pressure from Flyers forward Steve Downie pinned the Jets inside their zone. Downie's play forced a quick breakout pass by Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien up the right side boards that kicked off Blake Wheeler's stick into the high slot, where Hartnell directed a shot into the net before Pavelec could scramble into position.

"I'll take it," Hartnell said. "It's nice; your first shift and right in the slot there is a big present waiting for you."

Mason saw two shots in the first period, and Winnipeg went the final 15:27 of the period without one. The Jets faced early penalty trouble, taking four minors in the first. A tripping penalty to Tobias Enstrom at the horn created a two-man advantage for the Flyers that spanned the opening 1:36 of the second period.

Winnipeg managed to kill off the 5-on-3, but with the visitors on their third power play shortly afterward, Couturier, whose first-period shorthanded breakaway was stopped by a Pavelec right-pad save, jumped on Byfuglien's turnover inside the Flyers' defensive zone. Couturier outraced Enstrom and put the puck between Pavelec's pads at 5:36.

It was the fifth shorthanded goal the Jets have surrendered, tops in the NHL.

"It's the difference in the game, a one-goal game: the power play," Jets forward Devin Setoguchi said.

Frolik finally solved Mason late in the third, wrestling away a bouncing puck from a pack of players before taking it to Mason's right and flinging a low shot that snuck past the goalie.

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