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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, April 25th (All times Eastern)
New York Rangers (2-1) at Philadelphia Flyers (1-2), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Philadelphia Flyers hope goaltender Steve Mason can be the difference between a 3-1 series deficit and tying the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at two games apiece.
Mason will get his first start of the postseason on Friday, as the Flyers host the New York Rangers in Game 4 at Wells Fargo Center.
While having its No. 1 goaltender back in a starting role could help the Flyers, the club also needs to improve its offensive production if it stands a chance at beating the Blueshirts in this best-of-seven series.
Philadelphia was ranked eighth during the regular season with 2.84 goals per game, but the club only has managed to score six times through the first three meetings with the Rangers, who grabbed a 2-1 series lead with Tuesday's 4-1 road win.
The Flyers' top line of centerman Claude Giroux and wingers Jakub Voracek and Scott Hartnell are leading the team with two points apiece in this series, but Voracek has the one and only goal from the group.
A big problem for Philadelphia has been getting shots past New York, which is one of the best in the business at blocking pucks before they reach star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald believes the Flyers need to be more creative to negate New York's shot-blocking prowess.
"Sometimes you have to play mind games," MacDonald said. "Guys who block shots want to try and read when you are going to shoot it and sometimes they're more aggressive in the playoffs.
"So, maybe you want to fake it a couple times and take a step to one side or the other. Maybe you want to fake it once. Maybe the third time you don't fake it at all and get a shot through. However you do it, you want to keep them guessing and wondering if they want to block the shot or not."
After not being able to suit up for the first two games due to an unspecified upper-body injury suffered late in the regular season, Mason dressed for Game 3 and replaced Ray Emery late in the game after Philadelphia fell behind 4-1 in the third period.
Emery went 1-2 with a 3.49 goals-against average and .888 save percentage in the first three contests of the series. Mason stopped all three shots he faced in his relief appearance on Tuesday.
Mason's last postseason start was for Columbus on April 23, 2009. He yielded six goals on 41 shots as Detroit finished off a sweep of the Blue Jackets with a 6-5 decision in Columbus.
The 25-year-old Mason was 33-18-7 with a 2.50 goals against average and .917 save percentage in 61 games for the Flyers this season.
Martin St. Louis and Dan Girardi each notched a goal and an assist to help New York down the Flyers on Tuesday and bounce back from a 4-3 loss in a home Game 2. Lundqvist stopped 31 shots to help prevent Philadelphia from mounting a comeback like the one it pulled off Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Much like the previous game, the Rangers raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on Tuesday before the Flyers sliced the margin in half heading into the first intermission. Philadelphia went on to score three more times to take Game 2 by a 4-2 margin and even this set at one game apiece, but Lundqvist made sure Tuesday's lead held up, turning aside all 20 shots he faced over the final 40 minutes to stifle any hopes of another Philadelphia comeback.
"Our emotion and our desperation, Game 2 we didn't show much of that," Girardi said when asked what was different with his team this time around. "We just played a lot harder than we did in Game 2 and that shows through desperation."
Derek Stepan and former Flyer Daniel Carcillo supplied New York's other goals, while Rick Nash recorded a pair of assists in the victory.
Mark Streit scored the lone marker for the Flyers, who saw Emery allow four goals on 20 shots before being pulled in favor of Mason with just over seven minutes left in the third.
"It's good to get back out there," Mason said. "I haven't played in I guess almost two weeks or so, and it was nice to get my feet wet again and I look forward to maybe the next game."
Tuesday's tilt was the Rangers' first playoff game in Philadelphia since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on May 25, 1997, and their first playoff victory in the City of Brotherly Love since a 5-4 win in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on May 18, 1997.
New York had lost three straight at Wells Fargo Center before Tuesday's triumph.
The Rangers hope to make it two consecutive wins in Philly to set up a series- clinching contest when the clubs meet in New York for Game 5 on Sunday.
04/25 10:34:06 ET