So I have a confession to make, guys. I started writing this recap about halfway through the third period of the game. It was not on pace to be a very happy recap, as you can see from the original headline there.
And honestly, I don't think that pessimism was unjustified. By and large, when the two teams were at even strength, this was a game where the Flyers were outpaced, outhustled, and really just outplayed in nearly every way imaginable. Against an already-suspect team missing its best player, the Flyers looked like they were just completely lost for the large majority of this game. And after an odd-man rush the other way led to a weird goal through Steve Mason's five-hole to give the Predators a 2-1 lead about five minutes into the third period, the minutes that followed gave us no real reason to think the Flyers could mount a comeback.
Guess that's what makes hockey so great sometimes.
Andrej Meszaros, much-maligned in several spaces (including this one) for his limited and mostly poor play this year, made an unbelievable spin-o-rama pass from behind the goal line to Sean Couturier right in front of the net. And Couturier -- who, once again, was one of the best Flyers skaters on the ice -- buried it past Marek Mazanec to tie the game with about seven minutes left in the contest. A game that had absolutely no business being tied was, lo and behold, tied.
From there, Steve Mason -- who despite playing in the second half of a back-to-back, had already had a pretty damn good game to start, that second goal aside -- helped pull the team through regulation, making some nice stops down the stretch.
Then Mason would do the same thing again in overtime, including a fantastic stop on a breakaway by Colin Wilson, to pull the Flyers to the shootout.
And then Mason would do the same thing again in the shootout, stopping all three attempts he would face, including this impossible-looking save on Matt Hendricks in the second round. Vinny Lecavalier would give the Flyers their lone shootout goal -- quite a pretty one, I may add -- and it was all they would need thanks to the efforts in net.
Seriously, just watch the highlights for this game. I haven't done so yet myself, but I'm assuming it's mostly Predators shot attempts and saves by Mason. He was the story tonight, plain and simple.
The Flyers spent a large amount of this game chasing the puck around their own end, and if they play this way in any of the next five games on their road trip, they probably aren't coming away with any points no matter how good their goaltending is. Maybe -- hopefully -- it's just a product of them playing on a back-to-back, because they've had some problems with those this year.
But tonight, more than maybe any other night in this season, Steve Mason straight-up stole this game for the Flyers. It wasn't pretty, but it's two points. That's what counts.
Some other non-Mason thoughts:
* Just to put a number on how bad the even-strength play was: the Flyers were out-attempted 47-26 at 5-on-5 tonight, and every single Flyers player was on the ice for more Predators shot attempts than Flyers shot attempts. This against a Preds team missing Shea Weber. Seriously, guys, do better next time.
* 14 Flyers shot attempts missed the net tonight (compared to 24 on goal), but man, it just felt like one of those nights where even when they did have the puck, the Flyers could not, for the life of them, put the puck on an open net.
* On the plus side, both the power play and the penalty kill did a pretty good job. The PK put together its second straight outstanding effort, allowing only one shot on goal across five penalty kills while putting four shots on the Preds' goal themselves. In particular, I liked what Michael Raffl did on the PK -- have to wonder if he's earned a semi-permanent spot in the lineup. Meanwhile, the power play didn't score in three tries, but looked much better than it did yesterday, and it juuuuuuust missed a goal in the first period where the puck was sitting there in front of the goal line and Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek had a bit of a miscommunication.
* Sean Couturier scored the aforementioned tying goal, and on the whole his game looked pretty good out there. His line was probably the best one on the ice once again, even if it (like all of the lines and pairings for the Flyers) didn't look quite as impressive as it otherwise has lately.
* Scott Hartnell had seven shots on goal tonight. That's almost a third of the Flyers' total for the evening. He may look sloppy out there sometimes but damn it if he isn't trying.
* Vincent Lecavalier's shootout-winning goal was awesome, but his line of him, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn just seems to really be struggling lately out on the ice. They were looking pretty darn good when they were put back together upon Lecavalier's return to the lineup from injury a few weeks ago, but they seem to be getting beaten across the ice a lot and, in particular, spending too much time in their own end. They've shown they can do very well in spurts this season -- now we need to see it more consistently.
* Speaking of, Vinny was named the first star of the game. Steve Mason was not named one of the three stars of the game. Related: stars of the game are super duper dumb and should never be taken seriously.
* Lastly, a quick note on our opponents this evening: Holy crap Seth Jones is good. He'll be OK for those guys.
Questions to Answer:
1. Can the Flyers take advantage of a Preds defense missing Shea Weber? They absolutely did not. Win's a win, though!
2. On that note, how many references do we hear to the Shea Weber offer sheet, even though he's not playing? I didn't actually hear any? Though I missed pregame/the first couple minutes so there's a chance I missed one then.
3. The Couturier line (and Couturier in particular) were insanely good yesterday even by their high standards of late. How about today? Still the best line on the ice for the Flyers, even if they were a little underwhelming by their standards. Couturier was decent at evens and great on the PK, and tied the game in the third period, so can't complain much.
4. Steve Mason on both ends of a back-to-back for the first time this year. What's he do? Did you read the recap? Or the headline? He was insane. Won a game for the Flyers that they had no business winning.
5. The last few road games for the Flyers have all involved pretty slow starts. Can they fix that today? No, they could not. Though they did score the first goal, they spent a lot of the first period in their own end. And the second and third, for that matter...
Comment of the Night:
MASON JAR seals tight
-- j reed, because puns.
Road trip rages on to Minnesota on Monday night. Go Flyers.