PHILADELPHIA – Steve Mason gave the Flyers a taste of a fabulous performance in net in crunch time.
He would love to help keep it going in the playoffs.
Mason stopped 38 shots in his first home start for Philadelphia and gave the Flyers’ faint playoff hopes a boost in a 4-2 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.
Brayden Schenn, Erik Gustafsson and Kimmo Timonen scored to lead the Flyers to their second win in two nights.
Mason shook off leg cramps late in the third period to outduel New York’s Henrik Lundqvist in a pivotal matchup.
“As a younger goalie in the league, he’s someone you look up to and want to compete against,” Mason said. “I was able to get the best of him and I look forward to being able to do that more often.”
Mason won the Calder Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year in the 2008-09 season, but spent this year as a backup in Columbus. He is out to prove he is more than a No. 2 goalie. Getting the spot start for Ilya Bryzgalov, Mason proved he might be worth another look down the stretch.
“The last three years in Columbus have been a drain from a mental standpoint,” he said. “There have been so many negatives there, so to come here and get a fresh start with a new organization and new teammates, it’s just a breath of fresh air. I’m really looking forward to it and savoring it.”
Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan scored for the Rangers, who have a tenuous hold on the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers are tied with Winnipeg with 46, but New York has six games remaining, compared to five for Winnipeg.
The Flyers are 11th in the East, five points behind with five games left.
Jakub Voracek added an empty-net goal in the final seconds to seal the victory for Philadelphia.
The Flyers had nothing but praise for their new goalie.
“He looked calm. When he looks like that, it makes hard shots look easy,” Timonen said. “He’s able to play the puck behind the net. He broke up a lot of plays like that. That’s a big plus for us.”
Lundqvist was solid in net, but two goals off the post doomed the Rangers.
Coming off a 7-3 win Monday at Montreal, the Flyers are looking to make a late playoff push. In 2010, they clinched a spot in the final game of the season and advanced to the Stanley Cup finals.
They will need more games like the last two, with Thursday’s home game against the New Jersey Devils up next. The Rangers will host the last-place Florida Panthers on Thursday.
“Every game is a playoff game, we know that,” Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. “It’s so tight battling for that playoff spot. Every point is really important right now. We have to put this behind us, and we’ve got another huge game Thursday
The Flyers pounced on Lundqvist with two goals in the first period.
Schenn’s eighth goal skimmed the post and went in on Lundqvist’s stick side for the 1-0 lead.
With 2:39 left in the first, Gustafsson one-timed a wrist shot from high atop the circle for his third of the season.
Lundqvist, last season’s Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goalie, was coming off a 1-0 win against the Islanders on Saturday. Behind Lundqvist, the Rangers had been 5-1-1 in their previous seven games as they work to solidify their playoff position. The Rangers don’t play another team the rest of the way that currently holds a playoff spot.
“We want to win, and it’s tough when you miss opportunities,” Rangers centre Brad Richards said.
The Rangers cut the deficit to 2-1 when Zuccarello scored his first goal of the season. Though it was his first official goal, Zuccarello scored a crucial shootout goal to help the Rangers beat Toronto last week.
There would be no OT thrills in this one. Timonen banged the puck in off the post for his fifth goal and a 3-1 Philadelphia lead.
Stepan earned his team-high tying 35th point with his 15th goal.
Mason made the lead stick with a 16-save third.
“We just couldn’t solve Mason,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said.
The Flyers snapped a three-game losing streak to the Rangers, a team they have had major trouble with the last few years. Lundqvist has 24 career wins against the Flyers, the third most of any goalie. Only Martin Brodeur (47) and John Vanbiesbrouck (26) have more.
NOTES: Rangers C Brian Boyle sustained a lower body injury midway through the first period and didn’t return. … Fans roared when 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. After a brief image of Smith, the Flyers then showed photos and video clips of rescue workers from the scene of the Boston Marathon bombings. … The Flyers honoured coach Peter Laviolette for coaching his 750th NHL game on Monday night.