The Philadelphia Flyers needed a win. It wasn’t a “need a win to make their road easier” or “it’d be nice to win but not necessary” situation. It was win or go home.
Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center certainly didn’t lack storylines. The Flyers were potentially looking at their first first-round playoff exit since the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. In addition to the importance of a win, the Flyers would have to do it without one of steady, stay-at-home defensemen, Nick Grossmann, who missed his second consecutive game with a lower-body injury.
Erik Gustafsson was charged with taking over for Grossmann. It was no easy task, just ask Hal Gill who struggled in Game 5 on Sunday while filling in for the injured Swede.
Gustafsson was up to the task as he netted a second period goal to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead. “Just came out of the box,” Gustafsson explained following the game. “Saw Coby [Braydon Coburn] I think just put the puck down the ice and followed the puck. [Henrik] Lundqvist was going out for the puck I think as well, but I think it just kind of stopped for me.
“Went down it was rolling and I just shot it five-hole.”
It was that kind of night for the Flyers.
In the first period with Philadelphia on the power play, the Flyers were able to work the puck to Wayne Simmonds who was camped out in front of Lundqvist. Simmonds’ original shot was stopped by the Rangers netminder but Simmonds kept digging for it until he finally put it home.
The second period got started off in a good way with Brayden Schenn carrying the puck in on Lundqvist on a two-on-one with Simmonds. Schenn lost the puck as he got to the crease but he lost it right to Simmonds as he blasted home his second goal of the night to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead.
Gustafsson tallied the third goal then the Flyers went to work on the power play shortly thereafter. After a beautiful pass from Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek carried the puck into the slot and fired a shot. The shot was headed wide by Simmonds redirected it into the Ranger net to make it 4-0 Flyers and give Simmonds his first career playoff hat trick.
It was the Flyers’ first hat trick against the Rangers since Simon Gange 2009 and their first playoff hat trick against New York since Eric Lindros in 1997.
“This is my first playoff hat trick and it was nice to help give Mason some support,” said Simmonds after the victory. “He made some huge saves for us and he allowed us to get those couple goals, get the couple goal lead and then he sealed it for us.”
The Rangers would get two goals back in the third period with a Giroux empty-netter in between the tallies to make it a 5-2 victory forcing Game 7 in New York on Wednesday.
Mason made 34 saves in the victory for the Flyers and he was tested early and often. “It's always important to feel the puck early,” Mason explained. “If you're getting some big saves early on it's something to build off of towards the rest of the game.
“I was able to make a couple timely saves to start off the game and I felt good for the rest of it so it was nice to be busy a little bit earlier in the game.”
As for what is next for him, Mason is pretty sure what he will do prior to Game 7.
“You hop on the train and put it behind you. I've got a few episodes of Scandal to catch up on.”