By Jack Ryan
In his first start in four games, Steve Mason (above) made 36 saves in the Flyers’ 2-0 shutout of the Vancouver Canucks at the Wells last night.
It was Mason’s second shutout of the season and came in his first start since Dec. 8, when he was removed in the second period against the New York Islanders after allowing three goals on 10 shots. Michal Neuvirth had started the previous three games.
Michael Raffl and Sean Couturier scored for the Flyers (14-12-6), who won their second straight game and are 7-2-1 in their past 10.
Jacob Markstrom made 29 saves for the Canucks (11-14-8), who have lost eight of their past 10 games (2-6-2).
Vancouver played most of the final two periods without captain Henrik Sedin, who left the game early in the second period because of a lower-body injury.
Mason’s .944 save percentage at 5-on-5 led the league last season, but he entered Thursday 5-8-4 with a 2.93 GAA and .905 save percentage in 18 games. In nine games at Wells Fargo Center he was 1-4-3 with a 3.04 GAA and .907 save percentage.
“You come to the rink and you work hard and you try to put on a happy face,” Mason said. “But personally you’re not happy with the situation you’re in but that’s the role you accept. The thing you control is how hard you work in practice to prepare and that’s what I focused on. There’s built up, not necessarily anger but frustration and that’s what you use as your motivation in practice to keep going to make sure you’re ready for when your next shot is.”
The Canucks outshot the Flyers 12-4 in the first 13:32 of the first period.
“Nice to see some shots put up on the board and get a feel for it early on,” Mason said. “Easy to overthink things when you haven’t played in a little while. To get a little bit of a feel for the puck early on was a nice, welcoming thing.”
Raffl’s goal gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead late in the first period but the Canucks had a great chance to tie the game with 2:02 left in the second on a power play. Daniel Sedin sent the puck in front to Alexandre Burrows, who spun and shot it from the right slot off Mason’s pads. The rebound went across the crease to Edler who had an open net, but Mason made a spectacular dive across the crease to stop the shot with the heel of his glove.
“It’s a desperation save that you might make one time out of 30 times,” Mason said. “But that’s why you make the extra effort, because sometimes you make them.”
Couturier said Mason played one of his best games of the season.
“[Mason] played unreal tonight, made some key saves at key moments,” Couturier said. “Kept us in the game all game. They outshot us a little bit. But he made the big saves at the right time and played great.”
The Canucks nearly got a goal on a slap shot from the right point by Radim Vrbata but it entered the net after the horn sounded to end the second period.
The missed opportunities are emblematic of the Canucks’ recent run of bad luck. They have scored one goal or fewer five times in the past 10 games and have been shut out four times in that span.
“That’s law of averages,” Burrows said. “You have to believe that those ones that are staying out right now are going to come in bunches later on.
“You just keep believing that what you’re doing is the right thing. There’s mistakes, things you can learn from. We feel that we can get a lot greasier around the net, can keep it a little more simple. Get pucks on net, traffic, tips, rebounds and that’s how you score in this League. Those cross-ice and one-timers and nice toe drags, they sometimes work on this level but in this League you have to be a real special player to make that work.”
The Flyers got Couturier’s insurance goal with 2:50 left in the third period. Wayne Simmonds got the puck off a give-and-go with Jakub Voracek and fired a shot from the left circle that Markstrom stopped, but Couturier tapped in the rebound from the right post.
Raffl’s fourth goal of the season gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead with 3:15 left in the first period. He tipped a point shot byEvgeny Medvedev past Markstrom. Referees let play continue for 22 seconds before the video goal judge signaled the on-ice officials that a goal was scored.
The Flyers momentarily thought they had a second goal after a shot by Claude Giroux from the hash marks triggered the goal horn with 14:37 left in the second period. Replay review showed Giroux’s shot hit the crossbar.