Flyers make good on Giroux's promise, tie series with Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason defends the crease against New York Rangers forward Benoit...

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason defends the crease against New York Rangers forward Benoit Pouliot during Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, April 25, 2014. (BRUCE BENNETT/Getty Images/AFP)

Ken Wiebe, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:21 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA - Steve Mason did everything in his power to back up the guarantee made by Claude Giroux.

And on this night, the actions of the Philadelphia Flyers goalie spoke much louder than the words of Giroux, or anybody else, for that matter.

Making his first playoff start since 2009, and first start since suffering an undisclosed upper-body injury nearly two weeks ago against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mason turned in a rock-steady performance and helped the Flyers earn a 2-1 triumph that evens this best-of-seven series at two wins apiece.

Game 5 goes Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

“It was good to feel the puck right away, make some saves, gain a little bit of confidence and carry that forward for the rest of the game,” said Mason. “It’s playoff time and it’s fun to be a part of it. If you treat it as a fun situation, you’re going to give yourself a better opportunity to have success.

“You don’t want to have to go to MSG down 3-1 in a series and have to win in that building, so for us, it was a must-win and the guys responded. If we’re able to go in there (Sunday) and have the kind of compete that the guys have shown time in and time out this season, that’s going to bode well for us.”

The victory was Mason’s first in the post-season after the Columbus Blue Jackets were swept by the Detroit Red Wings during his rookie season.

“I have waited a long time for it, but one win doesn’t do very much in the long run” said Mason.

He allowed a goal from Rangers centre Dominic Moore at 4:38 of the first period, as he was a tad slow getting post-to-post. He stopped the original shot with his mask, but Moore stuffed in the rebound on a wraparound.

That was the only time Mason was beaten on this night — a showcase that included 37 saves in all and 15 in the opening period as the Flyers were dramatically outplayed.

“He looked very confident right from the get-go and he had to be in the first,” said Flyers head coach Craig Berube, who made the smart move of inserting Mason for the final seven minutes of Tuesday’s game to help his goalie get back into the swing of things. “He did a great job.”

You can say that again.

“He was our best player,” said Flyers winger Jakub Voracek, who provided the game-winning goal at 7:22 of the second period.

The Rangers didn’t feel as though they made life tough enough on Mason, as many of their chances came from the perimeter — other than a brilliant paddle save on defenceman Ryan McDonagh in tight during the second period.

“No, I don’t think it was difficult enough,” said Rangers winger Rick Nash. “We need more traffic, more primary scoring chances. We had a lot of stuff from the outside.”

Voracek redirected home a pass from Brayden Schenn to give the Flyers a somewhat rare home-ice power-play marker.

Matt Read had the other goal for the Flyers, whose defence corps stepped up big-time in this one, especially after losing Nicklas Grossmann during the second period with what appeared to be an injury to his right knee or ankle when he crashed awkwardly into the boards.

Prior to this contest, Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said his team needed to play desperate and that’s exactly what it did.

“We were good. Obviously, we can get to another level,” said Simmonds.

After Game 3, Giroux created a minor stir by saying the Flyers would be ready for Game 4 and tie the series, but it turns out the assessment was bang-on.

There was nothing close to a guarantee offered up by either team following this game as the series has become a best-of-three.

“We haven’t played our best game yet. I really believe that,” said Berube.

You can be sure the Rangers feel exactly the same way.

WE MAY NEVER KNOW

Planned play or lucky bounce?

The debate rages on over whether or not Philadelphia Flyers rookie forward Jason Akeson actually tried to miss the net on purpose, in order to find linemate Matt Read off the end boards for the tying goal at 8:55 of the opening period on Friday night in what turned into a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers.

“Great play, if he did (do it on purpose) or if he didn’t,” said Read. “It bounced right to my forehand and I don’t know how he did that. It was pretty impressive.”

Impressive indeed, but was it intentional?

Akeson wasn’t totally forthcoming.

“We knew we needed to get pucks to the net all the time and that’s what we were trying to do,” he said. “Luckily, I got one that bounced out and went right to him.”

Based on the evidence available, your safest bet is that it was accidentally on purpose.

Either way, this best-of-seven series is tied 2-2 and down to a best-of-three, with Game 5 set for Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

ken.wiebe@sunmedia.ca

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