Mason is stop-o-matic

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Steve Mason makes one of his 38 saves during Flyers' 3-1 victory.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Steve Mason makes one of his 38 saves during Flyers' 3-1 victory.

Mason dehydrated, but holds off Avalanche

Posted: February 07, 2014

STEVE MASON sat in his stall, still dripping sweat, with a wet, blue towel draped over the back of his neck to provide some relief.

His teammates had long since left the locker room, some had already conducted their postgame interviews. Mason barely had enough energy to untie his skates, his face flushed and pale as the ice on which he just earned the Flyers another two points.

Even after taking a second to relax, Mason walked out of the Flyers' training room and said he felt as if his heart was racing "100 miles a minute."

At one point during the third period of last night's 3-1 win over the visiting Colorado Avalanche, Mason said he considered pulling himself from the game because of severe dehydration and cramping. He would have, he said, if the Flyers had more than a one-goal cushion against the Avalanche, the NHL's sixth-best team.

"Parts of the body were locking up," Mason said. "It didn't feel very good. It started in the second period and then got progressively worse from there."

Mason, 25, remained down on the ice for longer than usual after a save with seven minutes to play. Trainer Jim McCrossin walked out onto the ice, fed Mason a banana and waited while the goaltender guzzled more water.

While waiting, captain Claude Giroux stood over Mason and offered a few, um, words of encouragement.

"I told him to stop milking it," Giroux said, smiling. "He knew I was just kidding. He was having such a great game, you knew he was having fun."

In the throes of the cramps, it wasn't much fun for Mason. Between whistles, Mason would skate to the bench, where McCrossin would hand him another piece of potassium-rich banana in an attempt to thwart the cramps. He stuck with it.

"You're clock-watching more than anything, looking for a stoppage to kind of calm down and slow your breathing down to slow the rate of cramping" Mason said. "It was a long third period."

That Mason was 2 minutes and 50 seconds away from his third shutout in five games was a testament to his grit alone. His post-to-post slide to rob Colorado's P.A. Parenteau less than 40 seconds after Nathan MacKinnon's questionable goal cut the Flyers' lead to 2-1? Nothing short of heroic.

Mason's stop, just a few ticks after the Wells Fargo Center fans buckled their seat belts for a wild 2-minute flurry, allowed Giroux to ice an enormous win. If it weren't for Mason's consistent acrobatics all season, his teammates might have been more in awe.

"It was just a cross-crease pass. I really didn't even see the shot, I just knew the puck was coming across," Mason said. "It was a blocking save. The puck just hits you when you're in a good position.

"Sometimes when you're in scrambles, you slide across and the puck just hits you." Mason said. "Sometimes, when things aren't going so well, that puck finds the smallest of holes behind you. Right now, we'll enjoy it."

Mason and the Flyers are enjoying it, for sure. Despite falling short of his third shutout in a 9-day span, Mason improved to 4-1-0 in his last five starts with a sparkling 1.41 goals against-average and .955 save percentage.

"He gutted it out," coach Craig Berube said of Mason. "That's not an easy thing to do, with dehydration and cramping and stuff. He hung in there and did a great job."

Dancing on the precipice of a 16-day Olympic break that appears to be coming at the perfectly wrong time for the Flyers, Mason finally has his team back in playoff position. Like Mason, the Flyers are 4-1-0 in their last five games, playing perhaps their best hockey of the season.

With the win last night, the Flyers jumped ahead of Columbus for third place in the Metropolitan Division. They trail the second-place Rangers by just one point - and they are within one point of three different playoff spots, while in control of a lot of the tiebreaking scenarios.

After Mason signed a 3-year contract extension on Jan. 18, he allowed 11 goals and was pulled twice in his next three starts. Many credited Hall of Fame goaltender Bernie Parent with a chat that got Mason back on track, but it's not that simple. His hard work retooling his game never stopped. And even after a run as hot as his start to the season, Mason isn't willing to fill his own tires too much.

"I'm feeling comfortable," Mason said, though not referring to his body last night. "I don't want to get ahead of anything. Your job as the starting goalie every night is to provide stability back there and that's just what I'm trying to do."

Slap shots

The Flyers blocked a season-high 26 shots . . . Avalanche coach Patrick Roy, who might know a thing or two about goaltending, praised Steve Mason's game . . . Kimmo Timonen (bruised left foot) returned to the lineup last night after missing two straight games. He played 19:46, blocked six shots, and appeared to be fit enough to travel to Sochi this weekend to represent Finland in his fifth Olympics . . . After the Flyes burned a 5-minute major power play, Mark Streit scored in his second straight game with a power-play blast. It was the eighth straight game the Flyers have scored a power-play goal, and the third time this season Streit has scored in back-to-back games.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

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