On a miserable, rainy day in Philadelphia, the Flyers shined as they won Game 6 and defeated the New York Rangers 5-2 to force the pivotal Game 7 tomorrow night in New York City. Led by winger Wayne Simmonds and goaltender Steve Mason, the Flyers played with the kind of energy that had been lacking for the majority of this series.
There was an air in the building that felt like tonight was going to be a good night. It started with the singing of God Bless America by Flyers’ anthemist Lauren Hart and accompanied on the jumbotron by the late, great Kate Smith. Smith had been the Flyers good luck charm whenever she would sing God Bless America before big games in the 1970s when the team won its only two Stanley Cups.
The Flyers came out strong as Wayne Simmonds scored his first of three goals on the power play just over seven minutes into the first period. He then scored two more goals in the second period; completing the hat trick. The last Flyer to complete a hat trick in the playoffs before the third period was Tim Kerr on April 19th, 1989 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Before tonight, Simmonds had never even scored two goals in a single playoff game.
Simmonds spoke of his team’s performance after the game:
“I thought we did a good job of avoiding their shot blockers,” Simmonds said. “We had layered screens. We kept the pressure up and had second chances and third chances and fourth chances and we kept going and didn’t quit on plays. So I think that was the difference.”
As huge as Wayne Simmonds’ performance was tonight, the true star of the game was goalie Steve Mason. Mason arguably played his best game in a Flyers uniform and it couldn’t have come at a better time. He stopped 34 of 36 shots on goal including multiple point blank shots and breakaways. Chants of “Mason! Mason!” roared from the crowd throughout the game. He eventually acknowledged the crowd by raising his stick in the air which led to even louder applause.
Mason was clearly humbled by his fans’ appreciation towards him and his play:
“Those are moments that send chills down your spine,” Mason said. “You have 20,000 people chant your name. Those type of moments don’t happen too often so it’s nice just to take it in and they’re showing their appreciation and you throw your stick up in the air, acknowledge it and those are the type of moments when you’re done playing you can look back on and say they were pretty special.”
Erik Gustafsson padded the Flyers lead in the second period as he scored a breakaway goal right out of the penalty box. Claude Giroux finished the Rangers off with an empty net goal late in the third period.
The Rangers clearly didn’t play with the same toughness that had been working in their favor for most of the series. Henrik Lundqvist was pulled after two periods and was replaced with backup Cam Talbot.
As well as the Flyers played tonight, it’ll be interesting to see how they will perform tomorrow night with no rest and on visiting ice where they have had trouble winning over the past few years.
Coach Craig Berube addressed these concerns to the media after the game:
“I don’t think tomorrow will be much different than tonight,” Berube said. “You’ve got to control your emotions to some point. I like the way our team was aggressive tonight. We got in there and stuck our nose in there around the net and we gotta do the same thing [tomorrow]. It’s going to be tough.”
It’ll be win or go home tomorrow night in Madison Square Garden. If Steve Mason plays tomorrow as he did tonight, it’s hard not to pick Philadelphia to win the series. The puck drops at 7 p.m.