Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Mason Stonewalls LA

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MASON STONEWALLS LA TO END FLYERS WINLESS STREAK

Bernie Parent in his prime couldn’t have done it any better than Flyers goaltender Steve Mason did yesterday in LA. In a 2-1 win, Philadelphia led most of the way but spent most of the final 40 minutes hemmed in their own end of the ice. Thankfully for Philadelphia, Mason was in his “Stone Cold” mode reminiscent of his 35-save shutout of the Kings last year.

Mason made an early first period even strength goal by Claude Giroux and an early second period goal by Wayne Simmonds stand up to the Kings’ barrage. The lead was reduced to one goal at 4:09 of the third period but Mason slammed the door the rest of the way.

LA’s Justin Williams finally got one puck past Mason, who finished with 37 saves on 38 shots as the Flyers hung on for a 2-1 win. On Feb. 1 of last season, the Flyers beat the eventual Stanley Cup champions by a 2-0 margin despite getting 35-13 for the game, including a 27-9 disparity over the final 40 minutes. This time, the Flyers got outshot 38-16 for the game, including a 31-9 disparity in the third period.

No goalie can play at that level on an every-game basis, but it sure is nice when a team can get that sort of play from their netminder. This was an A+ game for Mason, who has also turned in a pair of similar performances (in losing causes) against the New York Rangers in the calendar year.

When Mason is at his absolute best, he is top of his angles. He uses his glove and stick as well as any goaltender the Flyer have had in many years. When chances move in close and there are scrambles around the net, he uses his strong legs and arms to fight for saves.

The team in front of Mason deserves some credit, too, even though the Flyers had a tough time getting the puck out of their own zone in the final 40 minutes. A large percentage of the Kings’ 69 shot attempts were forced to the perimeter. The Flyers also blocked 23 shot attempts including five by Braydon Coburn. Philadelphia’s beleaguered penalty kill also stepped up in this game, as the team went 5-for-5 on the PK.

Claude Giroux opened the scoring at 4:35 of the first period, tallying his eighth overall goal of the season but just his second even-strength goal. On a rush up the ice, Giroux made a nifty behind-the-back pass to Mark Streit, who then made a return pass to the Flyers captain.

From between the circles, Giroux’s quick release beat Jonathan Quick (14 saves) to give the Flyers an early 1-0 lead. Streit earned the primary assist, while Nicklas Grossmann got the secondary helper.

Giroux, who also went 17-for-27 on faceoffs in this game, was chosen the game’s first star by the LA media. Mason was third with LA defenseman Robyn Regehr (17:06 of ice time, one assist, two shots, four shot attempts, two hits) selected over him as the second star.

The Flyers actually scored first in all three games of the California road trip, although they ended up with a 1-1-1 record. Entering the game, Philly was 0-4-2 over its previous six games and 1-8-2 over a span of 11 games. They were 2-9-2 on the road. Meanwhile, LA entered the game with a stellar 11-3-1 record at the Staples Center. Mason was the biggest reason why the Flyers bucked all those negative predictors yesterday, but somehow he was only the third star.

In last season’s game in Los Angeles, Simmonds and Giroux were the Flyers’ two goal scorers in the 2-0 win. Yesterday, it was once again the same two players who scored for Philly.

At 2:08 of the second period yesterday, Simmonds doubled the Flyers’ lead. On a power play line rush, Simmonds took a short-range pass from Sean Couturier. From the right circle, Simmonds put a low shot on net that leaked through Quick. Simmonds has scored three goals in the last two games and now has six power play goals among his 11 takes on the season. Couturier and Andrew MacDonald earned the assists.

Couturier logged 20:43 of ice time in yesterday’s game, while Giroux skated 21:47.

After Simmonds’ goal, the Flyers generated very little offense the rest of the game. They were outshot 15-6 in the middle frame and 16-3 in the third period.

At 4:09 of the third period, former Flyers forward Williams finally got LA on the board. In a scramble around the net, LA had two attackers near right side of the net to one Flyer. Williams claimed the loose puck and quickly fired it home. Jarret Stoll and Regehr earned the assists.

The Flyers spent much of the latter part of the game killing penalties. Simmonds (slashing ex-Flyers center Mike Richards) and R.J. Umberger (flipping the puck over the glass from the defensive zone with 12 seconds remaining on the Simmonds minor) took penalties in the final five minutes. Philly survived.

Grossmann chipped in two credited hits and 4:47 worth of penalty killing ice time amid his 21:08 of ice time in yesterday’s game. Nick Schultz had 4:54 of PK time for the game, while Coburn had 4:38.

A late-game hooking penalty on Stoll put the Flyers on the power play for the final 1:26 of the game. More important, it made it slightly easier to kill off the remainder of the clock.

The Flyers’ four-game road trip concluded on Tuesday with a game in Columbus. Thereafter, the the team finally returns home for games against New Jersey on Thursday, Carolina on Saturday, Tampa Bay on Dec. 16 and the Florida Panthers on Dec. 18.

That will conclude the 2014 calendar year portion of the Flyers’ home schedule. After the homestand, the club has an eight-game road trip that will take them through January 3. The trip begins with matches in Toronto and Winnipeg on back-to-back nights (Dec. 20 and 21), followed by a game in St. Paul against the Wild on Dec. 23.

After the three-day Christmas break, the Flyers resume in Nashville on Saturday, Dec. 27. The calendar year ends with road games in Arizona on Dec. 29 and in Denver on New Year’s Eve. The road trip concludes with back-to-back night games against the Hurricanes on Jan. 2 and the Devils the following night.

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