Flyers’ Simmonds, Mason force decisive Game 7
Thanks to Wayne Simmonds and Steve Mason, Game 7 between the Flyers and the Rangers will be necessary.
Simmonds, the team’s leading goal scorer (29) during the regular season, who’d been held to a lone open net goal through the first five games, snapped out of his funk with his first career playoff hat trick.
Mason, who missed all but seven minutes of the first three games, was brilliant at the other end, stopping 34 shots.
Together they were simply too much for a Rangers team hoping to send them packing for the season. Instead, following the Flyers convincing 5-2 victory they’ll hop a train late tonight, then decide it all 7:00 tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden.
Simmonds and the Flyers can’t wait.
“It’s great having a back-to-back,” said the 25-year-old Simmonds, who scored twice on the power play, as Philadelphia built a 4-0 second period lead to send Henrik Lundqvist to an early shower. “I think why you’ve seen the series go 1-1-1-1-1-1 is because teams have had time to regroup. Now we have the momentum and have to keep the pedal to the medal. We weren’t ready to go home tonight. We played a good game. Now we have to carry it over to tomorrow.”
That’s when they’ll try to win a Game 7 for the third time in the last four years (at Boston, 2010, Buffalo, 2011). The key, according to their coach, is simply more of what they did in this one.
“It has the be the same as tonight,’’ said Craig Berube, who shifted speedy Michael Raffl to the top line alongside Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek and subbed Erik Gustafsson for veteran Hal Gill. He got an unexpected bonus when Gustafsson came out of the penalty box and beat Lundqvist late in the second period to make it 3-0, before Simmonds finished off his hat trick 1:02 later. “We need to come out and be an aggressive hockey team tomorrow. Play with a lot of passion and energy. You need to give everything you’ve got every shift.”
And it sure won’t hurt if Mason resembles the stone wall he was most of the night, turning aside one Ranger chance after another, before letting in two late goals after the outcome was long decided. In the first period alone he stopped 13 shots, many from point blank range, before Simmonds connected with that all important first goal of the game—only the second time in the series the Flyers had drawn first blood.
“They came in waves and he made some huges saves,” said Simmonds, who finally was able to get some space in front of Lundqvist and made the most of it. “If it weren’t for Mase I don’t know if it would’ve happened for us. He’s done it for us all year.”
Now can Mason do it tomorrow night at the Garden, where he got little support in Sunday’s 4-2 Game 5 loss?
The Flyers, who’ve been climbing off the ropes all season since they started out 1-7, believe in him —a nd themselves.
“We have a lot of character in this room,” said Giroux, who assisted on both of Simmonds’ power play goals, then clinched it with a goal of his own into an open net to make it 5-1. “When we play a team game and the chemistry is good on the ice that’s when we’re successful. Going back to the start of the year that’s what we were missing Now we’ve got to put it behind us right away. New York’s a good team and in Madison Square Garden they find a way to play a little better in front of their fans. But if we can win Game 7 there it’s gonna feel even more special.”
According to Berube the fact the Flyers did snap that Garden hex going back nine games and three years in Game 2 works in their favor. At the same time when it comes to a Game 7 he knows anything can happen.
“It’s huge, because know we can win there,” said Berube, who considered Game 6 the equivalent of Game 7, since their season was on the line. “Now we have to do it. I don’t think it matters how you get to a Game 7. We’re there. That was our goal. We’ve accomplished one goal. Now we’ve got to accomplish another one tomorrow.”
Less than 24 hours from now their fate will be sealed, sending the winner on to a second round date with the Penguins. For the Flyers, who’ve battled uphill all season, it’s the only reasonable thing you can expect.
Now comes the hardest part. Turning what figures to be a hostile battlefield dead silent.