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Flyers stay alive, gain on Rangers with win

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- Jakub Voracek and Steve Mason made their NHL debuts during the 2008-09 season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Voracek had a front-row seat as Mason backstopped them to the franchise's lone trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's best rookie.

Teammates again with the Philadelphia Flyers, Voracek said he saw a bit of that same Mason on Tuesday when the Flyers survived a furious third-period push by the visiting New York Rangers to skate away with a 4-2 victory.

Mason stopped 38 of 40 shots in his first home start since being acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline, and Philadelphia was able to win for the second time in as many nights to keep its playoff hopes alive.

"He was exactly the same as he was in the first year when he won the Rookie of the Year," Voracek said. "He was all over the place. He made a huge stop for us and he was a big key for us, too, and winning two more points today."

The Flyers moved within five points of the eighth-place Rangers with five games left in season. But Philadelphia wouldn't be there without outstanding play by Mason, who made 16 saves in the third period -- including five on a New York power play -- as the Rangers outshot the Flyers 17-4 in the final 20 minutes.

"It was his best period," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said of Mason. "They came hard. Lots of plays from the slot, plays in tight, through screens. He was able to pick up a lot. I thought some of the shots from the outside he was able to cover up or push them aside, not kick anything back in front -- really strong effort."

Mason made a number of those saves after his legs began cramping. He needed help from the Flyers training staff with 7:23 left in the period.

"Just a major cramp," Mason said. "As you can see, I'm just drenched (in sweat). Whether that was a mixture of nerves from playing at home for the first time and wanting to play well, I'm not sure. I'm definitely going to be pumping in the fluids tonight."

Kimmo Timonen had a goal and an assist to lead the Flyers' offense, and Voracek, Brayden Schenn and Erik Gustafsson each had a goal.

Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan scored for the Rangers, and Henrik Lundqvist made 18 saves on 21 shots.

The Rangers went 0-for-5 on the power play, and despite their big push in the third, only were able to get Stepan's goal.

"We doubled them up in chances," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "First period we had a lot of good chances, they only had two or three [but] they scored two goals. But I thought we kept on coming. We just couldn't solve Mason. We developed some offense, we couldn't solve Mason."

Mason has been working with goalie coach Jeff Reese to solve some of the issues that plagued him in the three-plus seasons with the Blue Jackets prior to his trade to the Flyers. Reese previously said his goal was to rebuild Mason's confidence as well as his mechanics, and on both fronts it appears he's off to a good start.

In four games with the Flyers, Mason is 1-2-0 but has a 1.82 goals-against average and .941 save percentage.

"The main thing was just reducing the depth off the rush and making my game more simple," Mason said. "Being that I'm 6-foot-4, I can take up a lot of net being further back in the crease than most guys, so I try to take advantage of that, and so far it's paying off. I'm just looking forward to continuing to getting better."

Voracek said in talking to Mason, leaving Columbus has given the goaltender a "second wind." Mason agreed.

"The last three years in Columbus have been a drain from a mental standpoint," he said. "There have been so many negatives there, so to come here and get a fresh start with an entirely new organization and new teammates, new fans, it's just a breath of fresh air. I'm really looking forward to it and savoring it."

The Flyers took a 2-0 lead after one period on goals by Schenn and Gustafsson.

Brandon Manning, making his NHL season debut, tried to one-time a Danny Briere pass from just above the faceoff circles inside the Rangers zone, but the shot was partially blocked by the Rangers' Derick Brassard. The loose puck bounced to Schenn in the low slot, just to the right of the New York net, and Schenn scored over Lundqvist's blocker for his eighth of the season at 9:28.

The assist was Manning's first NHL point. He was recalled Tuesday and inserted into the lineup to replace injured Kent Huskins and Bruno Gervais. Manning did not have a point in four games with the Flyers last season.

Gustafsson made it 2-0 late in the period when he one-timed a Sean Couturier cross-ice feed past Lundqvist with 2:39 left.

The Rangers got on the board early in the second period on Zuccarello's first NHL goal in more than a year. He received a long, cross-ice pass from John Moore at the Flyers blue line right in front of the Rangers bench. He skated down the right side and snapped a wrist shot between the skates of rookie defenseman Oliver Lauridsen that beat Mason to the stick side at 2:54.

Zuccarello, who spent most of the season playing in Russia and was skating in his ninth NHL game, had last scored March 19, 2012.

Timonen's power-play goal, at 10:00 of the second, became the game-winner. Claude Giroux beat Brad Richards on a faceoff from the left circle in the New York end. The puck rolled back to Timonen, who one-timed a low shot from the high slot past Lundqvist for the veteran blueliner's fifth goal of the season.

Stepan cut the Rangers' deficit to 3-2 at 7:28 of the third. Ryan Callahan skated through the middle of the Flyers zone and tried to fire a shot, but Kurtis Foster blocked it. The loose puck bounced to Stepan, who lifted a shot through traffic over Mason's shoulder for his 15th of the season.

Voracek closed the scoring into an empty net -- his career-best 19th goal -- with 13.8 seconds left.

"Every game is a playoff game -- we know that," Callahan said. "It's so tight battling for that playoff spot. Every point is really important right now. We have to put this behind us and we've got another huge game Thursday. We can't dwell on it. We have to move forward."

The Flyers are doing the same, but their road is bumpier.

"We still have to five more games," Voracek said. "Work as hard as we can and maybe we can sneak in."


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