Mason Carries Flyers Past Avalanche 3-1

Published on February 8th, 2014

By Anthony Mingioni

Despite playing a Colorado Avalanche team that was in the midst of their third game in four nights, the Philadelphia Flyers looked like a team suffering from fatigue in the first period.

Thanks to a gutsy 38 save effort by goaltender Steve Mason during the game and a more assertive second period, the Flyers won their third consecutive game, defeating Colorado 3-1 in a very entertaining Thursday night contest at the Wells Fargo Center.

Mason began suffering dehydration cramps during the second period, becoming so severe that he needed to come to bench to recover, giving head coach Craig Berube thoughts of putting backup goalie Ray Emery into the game.

“I told Ray to get ready,” Berube said. “Like I said, that cramping can be tough. Ray was getting ready there.”

“It was up to Mason.”

Mason would opt to stay in and played the third period, turning aside a flurry of shots, only letting in a bad angle goal to rookie forward Nathan MacKinnon.

“You just clock watch more than anything and just looking for a stoppage to calm down and slow your breathing down to slow the rate of the cramping. It was a long third period.”

His most remarkable save came in the waning moments of the game when he stopped a point blank one timer from P.A. Parenteau.

“It’s just a cross-crease pass and I didn’t even really see the shot,” Mason said. “I just knew the pass was coming across and it’s just good positioning. A blocking save, the puck just hits you when you’re in a good position.”

Berube was impressed with his goaltender’s fortitude in finishing the game.

“He gutted it out.  It’s not an easy thing to do, dehydration and cramping and stuff. He hung in there and did a great job.  He really did.”

The first period saw the Flyers struggling with a muddled breakout and they managed to make four turnovers within the opening 15 minutes of the period, giving the Avalanche several scoring opportunities.

“Yeah I don’t know what happened first period,” Streit said. “(Colorado’s) a good team, they have some quick guys up front and we were in our end a whole lot, but we recovered and came back strong in the second period and had some offensive time in their offensive zone and got scoring chances. I mean both goalies were really good tonight but this is a big game for us.”

Mason’s glove hand was especially quick in denying those chances, keeping the Flyers afloat.

“Oh he was unbelievable. I thought we had that pretty slow start and he made some key saves and he was strong the whole game so that made the difference. A big win for us though.”

The Avalanche’s early momentum was broken when forward Patrick Bordeleau went shoulder to shoulder with Brayden Schenn from a bad angle, sending the Flyers center careening into the side boards head first, garnering a five minute major for hitting from behind and a game misconduct penalty.

The Flyers pace noticeably quickened in the second period and they began to get opportunities on Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, who was matching Mason save for save.

With the Avalanche’s John Mitchell off for hooking Scott Hartnell, the Flyers were able to get on the scoreboard first as defenseman Mark Streit unleashed a hard rising point shot through a screen set up by former Colorado forward Steve Downie.

The remainder of the period saw Philadelphia maintain their offensive pressure, but Varlamov held the Avs close with 16 stops on 17 shots, mirroring Mason’s first period performance.

Berube describing the first two periods, “I think the 1st period it was a little tighter checking; not a lot of shots.  Later on in the period, but I think the first part of the 1st period, there was a lot of power plays too and stuff and it kind of screws up the momentum of the game a little bit. But the 2nd period, I thought we really played a good game in the offensive zone; had a lot of shots on net and did a lot of good cycling.

Colorado began to regain momentum early in the third before the Flyers struck for an insurance marker by Michael Raffl. The play was made when center Sean Couturier harried defenseman Shane Holden into the rear boards, causing the Avalanche defenseman to lose the puck. Couturier quickly found Raffl at the net with a quick pass, giving Philadelphia a 2-0 lead.

Couturier finished with two assists.

With a little over three minutes remaining, Avalanche coach Patrick Roy pulled Varlamov for an extra attacker. Mere seconds later, winger Ryan O’Reilly passed the puck to MacKinnon from behind the net to the left side of Mason. The rookie fired off the quick shot which somehow found its way past the Flyers netminder, leading to a breakneck finish.

Colorado would muster several scoring chances after, including Parenteau’s blast before Wayne Simmonds made a tenacious forechecking play in the attacking zone before passing the puck to Claude Giroux for the empty net goal to seal the game.

Couturier acknowledged the intensity of the final minutes of the game.

“Yeah, they pulled the goalie pretty early and kind of maybe surprised us a little bit, but they’re fast, and they can cycle the puck pretty good. I think it was a tough last three, four minutes, but I think we pulled it out, did a good job.”

As the break closes in, the Flyers’ captain Claude Giroux seemed pretty happy with his team’s current performance. “(The biggest difference in how they’ve played is) the little details.  Winning battles was something that we addressed after the Boston game, we wanted to make sure that we played better as a team.  Supporting each other, we break out the puck even easier so we can have more offense.”

The Flyers will play the Calgary Flames on Saturday afternoon before beginning their ten day Olympic break.

Flyers goalie Steve Mason making a save | Source:  Andrew King

Flyers goalie Steve Mason making a save | Source: Andrew King

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