Despite the devastating power outages in the Philadelphia region that still existed on Thursday night as the result of a major ice storm on Wednesday, the Philadelphia Flyers brought some great electricity to the Wells Fargo Center against the visiting Colorado Avalanche. The Flyers fought to a 3-1 win, backed by a very strong effort from goalie Steve Mason. With a shutout intact through 57 minutes of play, Mason was able to finish the job and make sure the Flyers held on to beat yet another tough Western Conference team.
The two teams were relatively even through one period of play. The most notable happening in the opening period was when Brayden Schenn took a brutal hit on the boards from Colorado's Patrick Bordeleau, who received a five-minute major and a game misconduct on the play. The Flyers were handed a 5-minute power play, but were unable to convert on the advantage that lasted from the end of the first into the beginning of the second period.
However, the Flyers would get another opportunity on the man advantage just minutes later. The Flyers set up Steve Downie in front of Semyon Varlamov in the Colorado net, and Mark Streit saw a golden opportunity. Streit blasted the puck from the blue line, through traffic, and past Varlamov to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead and a power play goal.
Steve Mason started to rack up the saves as the game continued on, and robbed Colorado of everything they threw his way. The Flyers added some insurance just seven minutes into the third period, as Michael Raffl, who has been hot as of late, received a wonderful pass from behind the net courtesy of Sean Couturier. Raffl put it right past Varlamov and picked up his seventh goal of the year on the play. The assist was also Couturier's second of the night.
The Flyers held a 2-0 lead with 5 minutes left in the game, but Colorado was aggressive. Avalanche coach and Hall-of-Fame goaltender Patrick Roy made a bold move by pulling his goalie with more than 4 minutes to play, allowing the Avalanche to have an extra skater. It paid off with just under 3 minutes to go, as rookie sensation Nathan MacKinnon wristed a bad angle shot off of Mason and into the net. The goal was a rather soft one by Mason's standards, but this seemed to ignite both the defense and Mason
Still with the extra attacker, the Avalanche were very persistent, and really did test Steve Mason, who came up with some big saves in the closing minutes. Credit Mason for keeping the Flyers in this game under intense pressure during the end. When the Flyers were finally able to dig the puck out of their zone after a relentless Colorado attack, Claude Giroux moved it down the ice and got an empty-net goal to cement the win. This comes on the same day that the captain was snubbed from Canada's Olympic Team, which had an opening due to an injury to Stephen Stamkos. Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning ended up being selected over Giroux, who will now have two or more weeks to rest.
While it was not quite a perfect night for Steve Mason, it was just one step short of perfection. He stopped 38 of 39 Colorado shots, and basically shut down another potent, prolific offense that helped its team post a 36-15-5 record coming into last night's game. The Flyers defense was shaky at times, but played another hard-fought, physical game. The offense wasn't quite firing on all cylinders, but the combined effort from Mason, the defense and the offense led to an important win for the Flyers. One notable strong point for the Flyers was their forecheck, which was quite relentless for most of the game.
The Flyers get another big win against a good team to keep pace in the Metropolitan Division. Unfortunately, all of the big wins of late have come against Western Conference teams, so they're not really making up too much ground in the division. With a 29-23-6 record, they now sit in third in the Metropolitan Division, just one point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets and one point behind the New York Rangers. They have a much higher proportion of divisional games coming up after the Olympic break.
For now, just one game remains before the Olympic break. While the Olympics start today, the hockey won't begin until next Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Flyers will host the Calgary Flames Saturday afternoon. Calgary holds the third worst record in all of hockey, and will visit the Flyers with a 10-14-4 away record.
Colorado – 17:10: Nathan MacKinnon (21), Assisted by Ryan O'Reilly (20) and Gabriel Landeskog (29)
Philadelphia – 19:40 – EN: Claude Giroux (19), Assisted by Wayne Simmonds (23) and Braydon Coburn (7)
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