Flyers even series with Game 4 win over Rangers
Steve Mason skated off the Flyers’ ice to a roar he waited a career to hear.
The thunderous cheers quickly changed to an appreciative chant: "Ma-son! Ma-son! Ma-son!
Headed to New York with new life, Mason sure earned this curtain call.
Mason stopped 37 shots for his first career postseason win, Matt Read and Jakub Voracek scored and the Philadelphia Flyers evened their first-round matchup against the New York Rangers with a 2-1 win in Game 4 on Friday night.
In his first start of the series, Mason shut down the Rangers, and shut out the noise of a raucous crowd.
"The crowd is unbelievable this time of the year," Mason said. "It’s definitely loud out there. Sometimes, it’s almost too loud for a goaltender. You can’t hear the shot being released."
He had no trouble keeping his eye on the puck and was in top form almost two weeks after he suffered an upper-body injury. Ray Emery was solid in the first three games but Mason played the final 7:15 in a 4-1 loss Tuesday night.
Mason was just getting warmed up. He played perhaps his best game of the season, denying a Rangers team that pressured him with shots all game. He was a wall in the final tense minutes when the Rangers pulled goalie Henrik Lundqvist for the extra attacker.
Dominic Moore scored for the Rangers, who squandered their chance to win the series this weekend at home.
Game 5 is Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
"You don’t want to go to MSG down 3-1 in the series and have to win in that building," Mason said. "For us, it was pretty much a must win."
The Rangers outshot the Flyers 16-6 and dominated a first period that put Mason to work in a hurry. But the Flyers escaped with a 1-1 tie after Jason Akeson’s shot off the backboards bounced straight to Read, who beat Lundqvist on his left side for the goal.
"He told me he meant to do that," Read said. "It came right to me. I just had to one-time it. I think Lundqvist got a piece of it but we’ll take it."
Read caught Lundqvist out of place at the perfect time.
"I didn’t expect it to come out that fast and on his stick," he said. "It was hard for me to come across."
Voracek redirected Brayden Schenn’s shot from the slot past Lundqvist for a power-play goal and a 2-1 lead. Mason had never played with a lead in five career postseason starts.
Mason hadn’t started a playoff game in five years since his rookie season with Columbus. The Blue Jackets were swept by Detroit in that series, and the late-season injury against Pittsburgh delayed his Philadelphia postseason debut.
"I waited a long time for it, but one doesn’t do much in the long run," Mason said.
Flyers captain Claude Giroux hasn’t scored in the series but his strongest performance came after Game 3’s loss when he said, "We’re going to tie up the series and go back to New York."
Off they’ll go to New York, the series tied.
"It’s going to be better for us mentally to go up there," Giroux said.
Giroux limped to the bench after taking a hard hit from Mats Zuccarello late in the third. Giroux, third in the NHL with 86 points, had no shots on goal in the first two games and has only two assists through four games.
Moore gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead when he joined the rush out of the penalty box and scored on a wraparound goal 4:38 into the game.
The Rangers pounded Mason with shot after shot, doubling the Flyers’ total for most of the first two periods.
Mason was sprawled in the crease stopping several shots and kept the Flyers in a game they desperately needed to win.
"He looked confident right from the get-go, and he had to be in the first," coach Craig Berube said.
Lundqvist, an eight-time All-Star and 2012 Vezina Trophy winner, stopped 23 shots but was betrayed by an offense that couldn’t convert open looks.
The Rangers were 0 for 4 on the power play and are 0 for 12 since Game 2.
"We got good looks, but this time of year you need more than good looks," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "You need to get the job done."
Notes: The Rangers have scored first in the last three games. … Flyers D Nicklas Grossmann left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury. … Lauren Hart, the daughter of longtime former Flyers broadcaster Gene Hart, sang "God Bless America," alternating lyrics with Kate Smith, who was on a video image. Smith’s rendition of the song has been a rallying anthem for the Flyers since the mid-1970s. … Game 6 is Tuesday in Philadelphia.