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Mason helps Flyers even series with Rangers

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- The last time Steve Mason won a playoff game, he was a 19-year-old goaltender with the Kitchener Rangers in the 2008 Ontario Hockey League playoffs.

He's come a long way since then.

Making his first start in more than two weeks, Mason made 37 saves as the Philadelphia Flyers beat the New York Rangers 2-1 in Friday in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference First Round series.

"He stood on his head," teammate Matt Read said. "He made some big saves. It's impressive to miss a couple games and didn't look like he missed a beat. He was right back on it. He played a great game."

Jakub Voracek scored the game-winning goal in the second period after Read tied the game in the first. The Flyers also played most of the final two periods with five defensemen after Nicklas Grossmann left with a lower-body injury at 6:25 of the second.

The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2 with Game 5 on Sunday in New York (noon ET; NBC, RDS, TSN). Game 6 will be Tuesday in Philadelphia and Game 7, if necessary, will be in New York on Wednesday.

Dominic Moore scored for the Rangers, and goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves.

It was Mason's first start since April 12, when he sustained an upper-body injury in the second period against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Mason sat out the final game of the regular season and the first two games of this series. He made his first appearance in Game 3, playing the final 7:15 in relief of starter Ray Emery in a 4-1 loss.

Mason's only previous Stanley Cup Playoff experience came when he was in goal for the Columbus Blue Jackets when they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's great," he said of his first NHL playoff win. "I've waited a long time for it, but one win doesn't do very much in the long run."

Mason was tested early as the Rangers outshot the Flyers 16-6 in the first period. However, he welcomed the early action.

"To be able to get into the game right off the bat ... it was good to feel the puck right away," Mason said. "Gain a little bit of confidence and carry that through the rest of the game."

While Mason was happy with the first period, coach Craig Berube wasn't.

"The first period they stretched us out pretty good," he said. "We are on our heels there. I thought the game got better after that."

The game turned the Flyers' way when Voracek scored on the power play at 7:22 of the second.

Moore was sent off for cross-checking at 5:58, putting the Flyers on the power play for the second time in the game. Late in the man advantage, Voracek raced the puck into the New York end but slipped and lost control of it. Jason Akeson won a battle for the puck with Martin St. Louis and kicked it to Mark Streit at the left point. Streit sent it across the zone to Brayden Schenn, who put a low shot toward the net that Voracek, stationed in the slot, tipped over Lundqvist's blocker for his second goal of the postseason.

"I tried to get it in on the power play and I got tripped," Voracek said. "Got back to the blue line and [Schenn] made a good heads-up and play and I tried to tip it high."

It was the Flyers' first home power-play goal; they went 0-for-5 in Game 3.

"I think we moved the puck a little better [on the power play]," Voracek said. "We had a couple good looks there. How may power plays did we have? Two? Fifty percent ain't bad."

The Rangers would have liked a similar output. They had a chance to tie the game late in the second period when Read was whistled for hooking with 15.1 seconds left, giving the New York a 4-on-3 advantage that carried into the third period. However they managed two shots on goal.

For the game they went 0-for-4 on the power play.

"I don't know exactly what it was," forward Rick Nash said. "We'll have to watch it on video, but I can say it was definitely a game-breaker. It was the deciding factor in the game. They score on their power play and we couldn't get the job done on ours."

The Rangers continued to push through the third period, outshooting the Flyers 10-8, but Mason was up to the challenge.

"I'm real happy for him," said Akeson, a teammate on that 2008 Kitchener team. "I know he's a stand-up guy, a stand-up goalie. He did a great job [Friday]. ... Mason played a heck of a game and I'm really happy for him."

An undermanned defense also played well after Grossmann was injured. He fell feet first into the boards in the Philadelphia end while battling for the puck with the Rangers' Derick Brassard. Without Grossmann, Braydon Coburn played a game-high 25:27 and Kimmo Timonen played 23:36.

"Anytime a team goes with five defensemen it's hard on their bodies," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "It's a good thing we got big guys in pretty good shape."

Now the attention turns to Game 5 on Sunday.

"It's a battle of three now," Nash said. "We need a huge game on home ice on Sunday. We need our fans as loud as usual and the Madison Square Garden rocking."

The Flyers won Game 2 at MSG, their first win at the Garden since February 2011. They hope the memory of that game and the momentum from their Game 4 win will carry over into Sunday.

"We know we can win a game up there now, that's huge," Berube said. "I think it's just a matter of looking at the tape here with the players and getting better. I believe we haven't played our best game yet."

Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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