Thursday, February 06, 2014

Mason bricks up Avalanche offense as Flyers keep rolling

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor 

Steve Mason picked a fine time to hit a peak in his performance this season.

In what is likely to be his last start before the NHL pauses to send its players to the Sochi Winter Games, he came up with 38 saves to halt the speedy Avalanche as the Flyers walked away with a narrow 3-1 victory.

Mark Streit, Michael Raffl and Claude Giroux supplied the offense to back the goaltending effort, with Sean Couturier adding a pair of assists.

If not for a bad-angle goal from Nathan MacKinnon with 2:50 left in regulation, Mason would have been just the third Philly goaltender to shut out the Nordiques/Avalanche franchise here.

"It was just a cross-crease pass and I didn’t even really see the shot,” Mason admitted. "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."

He also dodged an injury bullet. After going down to face a shot and then appearing to contort his lower body late in the second period, Mason was attended by team staff, shaking his left leg gingerly. It ended up being only cramps and dehydration, though head coach Craig Berube told backup Ray Emery to get ready. Berube also stated that it was Mason's call to make on whether or not to stay in the game.

"It started in the second period and just got progressively worse as the third period went on," Mason said. "You just clock watch more than anything and you’re 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."

The Orange and Black take on Calgary Saturday afternoon and have a chance to make it five of six before the break.

Semyon Varlamov played well in defeat, stopping 33 pucks, but Colorado has dropped three in a row here since winning last in January of 2006. 

"I think sometimes you run into a hot goalie and that's certainly what happened," said Avs forward and team captain Gabriel Landeskog. "He played outstanding."

The Avalanche controlled stretches of the opening period, but gave the Flyers a prime opening to bust the contest open.

Patrick Bordeleau elbowed Brayden Schenn up high as the winger skated a few feet from the right-wing boards with 1:32 remaining. The force of the blow drove Schenn into the dasher, and the hitter was given a major and game misconduct for checking from behind.

Wayne Simmonds put a crimp into those plans by taking a minor 47 seconds into the second, but his teammates didn't fail on their next chance.

With John Mitchell in the box for hooking, Streit loaded up from the left point and his blast sailed through traffic and appeared to go cleanly through the legs of Steve Downie, who was providing a screen, then past Varlamov at 6:21 of the period.

Mason was given a crucial insurance goal just after the seven-minute mark of the third period. Sean Couturier stripped a Colorado defender behind Varlamov, spun back around and fed in front for Raffl's one-timer which slowed down but didn't stop on its way over the goal line for a 2-0 game.

"We knew we didn’t bring our best game in the first period," Raffl said. "Everybody had to step up, and that’s what we did."

The one time the Avs caught Mason napping was key, as the Philly netminder gave MacKinnon inches of room on the near post and the rookie threaded a shot home from the right wing with 2:50 left.

Varlamov was called to the bench with 2:14 remaining. Mason saved his best stop for last, stoning PA Parenteau on his chance in close from the left side seconds after being rushed in the crease and knocked over by Matt Duchene.

Giroux removed all doubt on his empty netter at 19:40.

Notes: Pelle Lindbergh (3-0, May 16, 1985, Game 6 Wales Conference Finals) and Ron Hextall (2-0, March 23, 1997) are the only two goaltenders in team history to record home shutouts against Quebec/Colorado ... Streit's power-play marker gave the Flyers a man advantage score in eight straight games ... Braydon Coburn logged the most minutes of any host player at 24:07, while Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson capped the list with 26:08 TOI ... Varlamov, who stopped 29 shots in a 2-1 win at Denver on Jan. 2, fell to 1-1-1 in four career starts against the Flyers ... Prior to the contest, the team paid tribute to former GM and team architect Keith Allen with a video presentation and moment of silence. Anthem singer Lauren Hart performed "God Bless America" with a taped Kate Smith to close out the honors.

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