PLYMOUTH -- Steve Mason knows the cruelty of playoff hockey.
The reigning OHL goalie felt it after being yanked in the third period of the London Knights' 5-2 loss in Game 3 of the Western Conference final at the John Labatt Centre on Monday. He went home and watched another version of post-season heartbreak on TV when the Dallas Stars lost Game 7 of their NHL series to the Vancouver Canucks.
"(Dallas goalie) Marty Turco had three shutouts in the series and still didn't come out on the winning end," Mason said. "Sometimes, it comes down to making the big save at the right time."
Mason has made a number of huge saves against the powerful Plymouth Whalers, but if there's one thing he has been guilty of in the series, it's not making up for his teammates' defensive miscues when the Knights have been trailing.
"It's the timing of the goals that has hurt us," Mason said. "I have to be better. It's up to me to keep us in the game and I didn't do that."
The buck stops with the guy stopping the puck and heading into last night's game, the Knights had lost a season-high six of seven contests.
London has struggled offensively against Plymouth but goaltending can always be a difference maker every time two teams step onto the ice. The Knights have left Mason out to dry with some weak defensive zone play, but that isn't being held as an excuse by their puckstopper or his overseer.
"If your team doesn't score and you don't allow any goals, then the worst you can do is be heading into overtime," London goalie coach Dave Rook said. "You watch the tape to see if Steve went down too soon or if he was out of position and on the fourth goal, there was a (small) space and there's where he (Plymouth forward Ryan McGinnis) stuck the puck. Sometimes, the shooter wins and you just tip your hat to him."
After getting pulled in Game 6 of the second round in Sault Ste. Marie, Mason had a soul-searching chat with himself and came out with a better effort in the series-deciding win over the Greyhounds. He didn't talk to himself this time around.
"Every goalie who has ever been pulled has pride in his game and wants to do better the next time," Mason said. "There's no more pressure. You just want to go out there and play your game and help your team win."
The Columbus Blue Jackets third-rounder is expected to be back in the London net next season and has already learned valuable lessons on what it takes to take a team deep into the playoffs.