Steve Mason continued his mastery. The Flyers number one goalie finally was healthy enough to start and boy did he make a difference. His 37 saves allowed the Flyers to come away with a hard fought 2-1 win over the Rangers to even the best of seven first round series.
After subbing late for Ray Emery in Game 3, Mason was outstanding. He was particularly sharp in a lopsided first period that the Rangers controlled outshooting the Flyers 16-6. Tested early and often, he saved his team from falling behind more than a goal. Mason allowed one goal to Dominic Moore. Following a strong penalty kill of a dubious penalty on Moore for hooking embellisher Zac Rinaldo, Brian Boyle got the puck to Moore after he came out of the box. He followed up his own rebound by beating Mason with a wrap around at 4:38.
Boosted by the goal from their fourth line, the Rangers carried the play. Using superior speed, they created dangerous chances. Despite getting behind the Flyers D several times, they never found a way to grab a two-goal lead. Instead, Mason stoned them time and again. The former Blue Jacket was the best player on the ice. His clutch stops allowed his team to breathe.
Similar to Game 2, the Flyers scored a bad goal on Henrik Lundqvist. Over four minutes after Moore’s tally, Jason Akeson’s intentional pass off the back boards caromed right to Matt Read, who caught Lundqvist off his post for the tying goal. Ironically, Read is the same player whose blindside hit on Daniel Carcillo didn’t warrant a suspension on a play that went undetected.
Even with the game even, the Rangers continued to dominate play. They surrounded the Flyers net searching for the go ahead. The third line of Carcillo, Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin came the closest. They also had a power play following a dangerous high hit Brayden Schenn delivered on Rick Nash. However, they couldn’t connect. Nash had the best opportunity on a rebound but his low attempt was denied by Mason.
After surviving the first 20 minutes, the Flyers turned it into a similar style to Game 2. Coach Craig Berube made a good adjustment having his defense aggressively challenge the Rangers at the blue line. The strategy worked forcing them into sloppy play. Their passes didn’t connect and they weren’t able to sustain a consistent fore check. Predictably, the Flyers mucked it up during post-whistle scrums. They played much smarter.
A strong Philadelphia penalty kill on an Andrew MacDonald hooking minor allowed them to grab the momentum. To be blunt, the Rangers power play was terrible. They got no pressure and turned the puck over repeatedly leading to easy Flyer clears. In fact, they got the best chance shorthanded but Lundqvist slid across to deny it.
On the next shift, Moore cross checked Claude Giroux putting him in the sin bin. Giroux, who said the Flyers would win didn’t register a point. But he did get a shot on a power play that eventually cashed in. A Mark Streit keep allowed Brayden Schenn plenty of time to fire a shot which an unguarded Jakub Voracek tipped in high to Lundqvist’s blocker. His second of the series came at 7:22 of the second. The Rangers inability to clear the puck cost them. Marc Staal was late recovering which allowed Voracek too much time.
A Sean Couturier high stick put the Rangers back on the man-advantage. It didn’t matter because the Flyers easily killed it. When they weren’t outracing Rangers to loose pucks, they allowed Mason to see every shot. Unlike the first where he stood on his head, he made the saves and the Flyers D did the rest. Not one Blueshirt got in front of him.
The power outage continued. After matching roughs to Carcillo and Schenn with under a minute left, Ryan McDonagh pinched in during a four on four and got robbed by Mason, who made his best save. On the same shift, Read went for hooking at 19:44. Predictably, they lost the offensive draw killing the rest of the second. Despite getting a fresh sheet of ice, there was no sense of urgency. The one time they got set up, all the four players did was pass the puck around like a hot potato. Not one shot was attempted.
Continuing to play a grinding style, the Flyers were content to protect a one-goal lead. In a wild postseason full of blown leads, it worked. Alain Vigneault tried double shifting Nash and eventually flipped Moore with Carcillo. Moore moved up with Richards and Hagelin. For most of the third, the Blueshirts were bottled up. They finally started applying pressure with less than five minutes left. As usual, Mats Zuccarello got the best chances. Similar to Game 2, he was robbed point blank only it was Mason instead of Emery. His line with Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot failed to produce a point in the two games at Wells Fargo Center. That must change Sunday at MSG for what the pivotal Game 5.
Vigneault pulled Lundqvist for an extra attacker with over a minute left. It nearly worked. But on his best shift in which he circled around the net, Nash sent a backhand through the crease that just missed. It was the closest they came.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Braydon Coburn, PHI (assist, 3 SOG, hit, blocked shot-strong defensive work, +1 in 25:27)
2nd Star-Jakub Voracek, PHI (PPG-2nd of series at 7:22, 2nd for GW)
1st Star-Steve Mason, PHI (37 saves incl. 15/16 in 1st, 12/12 in 2nd, 10/10 in 3rd)