There's only so many times you can handle another one-goal loss. Only so many times you can accept a complete meltdown in the third period.
And only so many times you’re going to cut your goaltender slack for not coming up with one, clutch save that makes the ultimate difference.
Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers played their 11th one-goal game and won, 3-2, with a strong, all-around team performance in the final period and with a game-saving clutch save from Steve Mason with four seconds left to play (see Instant Replay).
The victory snapped a three-game losing skid.
“The boys played a strong game coming off a very embarrassing third period [in Toronto],” said Mason, who picked up the win in relief of Michal Neuvirth (sprained left knee).
“Coming in this morning, having a meeting and it wasn’t positive, showing stuff. … Guys were strong on the boards tonight and getting pucks deep.”
Mason allowed one goal and finished with 19 saves while the Flyers' special teams shined in unison. The NHL’s second-ranked power play got a game-winner from Brayden Schenn and their gosh-awful penalty kill went 2 for 2 for a change.
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol railed before the game about the need for one, big stop from his goalies to turn things around and Mason gave it to them with several third period saves, including the key stop on Eric Staal a few feet off the post.
“Yeah, there’s been some big saves throughout the year, but they have not come frequently or at the most opportune times,” Mason said. “It’s one save out of an entire 60 minutes, but it’s a big save and you have to make ‘em.”
Now Schenn has three goals this season – all on the power play -- and that’s where he broke a 2-2 tie at 8:43 of the third period, taking a no-look pass from Wayne Simmonds behind the net, circling and beating Devan Dubnyk in the slot.
“A good bounce-back night for us,” Schenn said. “He’s hit me a few times there. A great play by him to recognize I was open in front.”
Simmonds knew he was there.
“Unbelievable, he picks up the puck and just outwaits Dubnyk, it was a heck of a goal,” Simmonds said. “This game was a lot better. We limited out turnovers … We were more aggressive in the defensive zone.
“Neuvy was playing great and then Mase has to come in and make some stellar saves, especially at the end. Two huge saves which pretty much wins the game for us.”
For the 11th time in 16 games, the Flyers gave up the game’s first goal. Took all of 21 seconds, too.
A puck from Charlie Coyle off Radko Gudas’ skate in the corner and it bounces to the net where Nino Niederreiter flips it off Neuvirth’s shoulder into the net. Ominous start.
Brandon Manning got it back later in the period with a wrist shot from the left point off a muffed pass from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, making it 1-1.
“It was a broken play,” Manning said. “Belly fanned on the puck. When I looked up they had bodies in front of the net and we did, too. I just tried to get it to the net.”
Neuvirth, who sources said sprained his knee later in the period and was in obvious pain, had a strong remainder of the stanza, but was replaced by Mason to start the second period.
Michael Del Zotto was caught flatfooted for a goal in Toronto, had Mikko Koivu put a zesty move on him near the midpoint of the period. Koivu’s floating backhander went off the crossbar for an easy rebound from Mikael Granlund to make it 2-1.
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol challenged the play was offside but the goal was upheld on review because Koivu waited till Chris Stewart tagged up before touching the puck even though it crossed into the zone first.
“Those guys usually get it right,” Hakstol said. “From the bench monitor, I didn’t think [Stewart] checked up. But they’re going off precise equipment … I’m sure they got it right.”
Del Zotto, however, got his revenge in the period’s waning minutes, intercepting a puck and then outracing Koivu to the net on a rush with Michael Raffl that tied the game. It was his first goal this season.
“I knew I needed to do something to get the team back in it after I let them down,” Del Zotto admitted.
“There are still some plays, some reads out there I’m making where my game isn’t where it needs to be but it’s going to come as I get into more games … I let the team down on that play and I knew I could make a play to get us back.”
Raffl sent a split-second, perfect crossing pass for Del Zotto’s twisting goal at the post.
“I was determined to get to the front of the net and he made a great play to me,” Del Zotto said.
The Flyers improved to 4-0-1 in the back end of back-to-back games which says something about their determination despite tired legs.
“I like what it says about resiliency and it gives us a bit of a formula,” Hakstol said. “I feel like the second night of back-to-backs, we played fresh teams. We simplify what we do.
“I don’t think in anybody’s case we tried to do too much. Mentally we were sharp and everybody did their part. That is what it takes whether on the front end or back end. There’s a formula there.”
All the Flyers have to do now is keep repeating it.