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December 17, 2015

Flyers 2, Canucks 0: Mason shuts out Vancouver in weird win

Michael Raffl didn’t know his deflection went in the net, and in fact, he was actually waiting for Matt Read to put the rebound in. Raffl had scored the game’s first goal, but he couldn’t find out until the officiating crew stopped the play 30 seconds later and went to review it.

The puck had bounced off the camera and quickly squirted back out. Add everything up, and Raffl scored a weird goal in a weird game that the surging Philadelphia Flyers won 2-0 over the struggling Vancouver Canucks.

“I’ve never seen that before,” Raffl said after the game.

Sometimes games are just goofy, and that is precisely how this one unfolded through periods. There was, in order:

•    A goal that wasn’t counted on the ice and overturned.

•    A goal that did count on the ice but was overturned.

•    A 5-on-3 power play opportunity thwarted/wasted by each side.

•    A miraculous save by Steve Mason when Alexander Edler had two thirds of open net to shoot at.

•    A goal from Vancouver than went in a couple tenths of a second after the second period horn sounded.

In the end, Mason was the story of the night. Still very much the Flyers’ number one goaltender, he rode the bench for over a week due to another hot streak from Michal Neuvirth. Even if the lack of playing time had more to do with his backup, that still isn’t an easy situation.

“You come to the rink and you work hard and try to put on a happy face, but personally you’re not happy with the situation and role that you’re in,” Mason said.

Mason responded with a perfect performance, stopping all 36 shots that the Canucks fired his way. None were bigger than the save he made to deny Edler on the power play. Mason estimated it was a play that a goaltender makes one out of thirty times:

Mason was asked after the game how much luck plays into a save like that.

“I like to think it’s talent, not luck,” Mason said, which drew some good laughs.

But really, come on. The guy shot the puck right into his glove.

“In a situation like that, I think they’re better off putting it along the ice,” he continued. “A goalie’s first instinct is to take away a diving space and it was lucky that the glove was in the right spot there.”

Similar to the previous win on Tuesday night against Carolina, the Flyers got off to a rough start. They were very sloppy trying to exit their own zone, but Mason held down the fort until Claude Giroux drew a couple of penalties late in the period.

The Flyers’ best line on the evening was yet again the big 93-14-17 group that I wrote about the other night. They were the Flyers’ only skaters with a positive Corsi differential at 5v5, and Sean Couturier was rewarded with the goal that put the game away at 17:10 in the third. Naturally, Jake Voracek and Wayne Simmonds got the assists.

The Flyers saved their best for last, as the final period was their most complete. Is the confident closing effort something that we can attribute to the coach?

“He’s really patient,” Giroux said of Dave Hakstol. “He doesn’t want us to hit the panic button too much. I think in the past, our team, we’ve had guys hitting the panic button really quick. And I’m one of those guys.”

For his part, Hakstol pointed to the goalie he had just sat down for three straight games.

“Mase was our best player through that [early] stretch and we slowly evened things out and I think had a good third period,” Hakstol said.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann