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His shutout ended on a tip-in goal from the Rangers’ Carl Hagelin with less than seven minutes to go.
Flyers goalie Steve Mason was a bit down after what had been one continuous spectacular effort in a playoff game.
And then the fans picked him up.
“Mason, Mason,” they chanted louder and louder.
Finally, Mason raised his stick amid a standing ovation in acknowledgement.
Watershed moments like that are few and far between in sports. They should be cherished.
“Those are moments that send chills down your spine,” the 25-year-old goaltender said. “You have 20,000 people chanting your name. Those type of moments don’t happen too often. It’s kind of nice to take it in.
“They’re showing their appreciation. You pick up on it and acknowledge it. Those are the type of moments that when you are done playing, you can look back on and say they’re pretty special.”
Game 6 was pretty special for Mason because he gave the Flyers the kind of early saves that made all the difference in a 5-2 victory that sets up Wednesday’s Game 7 at Madison Square Garden (see story).
In the first five minutes of the game, Mason had to endure a firing range of Rangers shots. Four of them were actually off net, but the Flyers were having one mental meltdown in front of him after another (see 10 observations). The three saves he did make were nothing short of critical.
Before the period ended, he stopped both Rick Nash and Anton Stralman from point-blank range just feet from the blue paint with the Flyers clutching a 1-0 lead (see highlights).
It was the engine that propelled the Flyers to victory, with a little help from Wayne Simmonds’ hat trick (see story).
“He’s done it time after time this year,” Simmonds said. “They came in waves and he made some huge saves for us. It allowed us to get our footing under us.
“We went from there. We got our offensive opportunities and we capitalized tonight. If it wasn’t for Mase, I don’t know if those chances would have happened.”
In a do-or-die situation in which the Flyers needed their goaltender to make a critical difference and outplay Henrik Lundqvist, Mason came up huge (see Instant Replay).
Thing is, Mason wanted it that way. He wanted tough saves early. He wanted to get himself zeroed in on the task ahead. He embraced it.
“It’s always important to feel the puck early and find if you are getting some big saves early on, it’s something to build off for the rest of the game,” Mason said.
“I was able to make a couple timely saves and felt good for the rest of it. Nice to be busy a little early in the game.”
He had 13 saves in the first period and 10 in the second. Hagelin took seven shots on him in the game while Derek Stepan had four.
The critical one, however, was a glove snare on Benoit Pouliot near the end of a second-period Rangers power play that brought Wells Fargo Center to its feet.
Seconds later, Erik Gustafsson came flying out of the penalty box for a breakaway goal that made it 3-0 (see story).
Momentum save. Momentum goal. Game over.
“Those are plays that seemed to happen over the course of the season and we had yet to have one come playoff time,” Mason said.
“That was a huge goal for us and gave us more of a cushion. With Gus coming out of the penalty box after a timely save. Nice breakaway goal … you need to capitalize on those chances and Gus did.”
And now it’s onto Game 7. Whether Mason can seal the deal is unknown.
“You hop on the train and put it behind you,” Mason said of the Flyers' win. “I’ve got a few episodes of "Scandal" to catch up on.”
-- Tim Panacciom, CSN Philadelphia