Steve Mason made a strong case last year to earn a spot among hockey's elite goaltenders, but so far, his 2015-16 season had not gone according to the same script. Against the Vancouver Canucks tonight, Mason looked back to his old self.
In his first start since December 8th, Mason carried the Philadelphia Flyers to a 2-0 victory, shutting out the Vancouver Canucks at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers goalie, who recently has seen his playing time reduced due to the strong play of Michal Neuvirth, made 36 big saves to post his second shutout of the 2015-16 season.
The game did not start promising for the Flyers. From the opening faceoff, Vancouver controlled the flow of play, racing through the neutral zone uncontested and pinning Philadelphia deep in their own end for extended cycles. But Steve Mason, in his first action since December 8th, bailed out his team. Mason made 12 big saves, which helped the Flyers stave off fifteen minutes of almost uninterrupted dominance.
Then, the Vancouver Canucks did their best to hand the game to the struggling Flyers. Jannick Hansen was whistled for obstructing Claude Giroux in the neutral zone during one of Philadelphia's few 5v5 rushes of the period. Michael Raffl was able to take full advantage of the power play, redirecting an Evgeny Medvedev shot past Jacob Markstrom for a goal that the officials actually missed in real time. But word came from Toronto that the shot needed to be reviewed, and after a brief stoppage, the Flyers were given their rightful 1-0 lead.
The Canucks weren't finished in their attempt at self-destruction, however. Yannick Weber interfered with Wayne Simmonds in the offensive zone only seconds after Raffl's goal, sending Philadelphia back to the power play. On the ensuing man advantage, Claude Giroux carried the puck past four Canuck penalty killers into the offensive zone, and only an Alex Biega penalty kept the captain from a clean breakaway.
The penalty gave the Flyers an extended two-man advantage, but the team was unable to capitalize despite constant pressure from the top unit. Philadelphia entered the locker room with the lead, but with the feeling that they may have missed an opportunity to put away a Vancouver team that seemed adamant on giving the game away.
Following the intermission, the Flyers came out far stronger than they did for the opening whistle. They yet again lost the even strength shot attempts battle (16-7 Vancouver in the second period), but this time, the Flyers generated scoring chances at a solid rate, putting legitimate pressure on Markstrom. Still, the conclusion of the period was all Canucks, and only the heroics of Mason kept the Flyers in the lead. Facing down a five-on-three with time running down, Mason absolutely robbed Alex Edler, flashing his glove hand across the crease to deny a shocked Edler and keep the score at 1-0.
Clinging to a one-goal lead at the start of the third, Philadelphia turned in its best period of the night. Rather than sit back and rely on their hot goaltender, the Flyers pushed forward in the final stanza, matching the Canucks in total shot attempts and winning the scoring chance battle 6-3. They were finally rewarded with three minutes remaining, when Sean Couturier batted home a rebound from a rush chance by Wayne Simmonds to finally put the game out of reach for the reeling Canucks, who have now lost four straight.
Comment of the Night:
Mason is a Jedi, making those Sedin ewoks look silly.