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Cullen: Simmonds, Mason shine; Flyers force Game Seven

Scott Cullen

4/29/2014 11:49:25 PM

Wayne Simmonds and Steve Mason came up big with the Flyers' season on the line and forced a Game Seven. Scott Cullen has notes on Simmonds, Mason, Lundqvist, Giroux, Hagelin and more.

LET'S GO SEVEN

Wayne Simmonds scored a hat trick and Steve Mason stopped 34 of 36 New York Rangers shots as the Philadelphia Flyers won 5-2 in Game Six, forcing a Game Seven to decide the series Wednesday night.

Simmonds, who scored a career-high 29 goals and 60 points during the regular season, erupted for three goals, all from within a few feet of the net. Officially, Simmonds' three goals traveled a total of 20 feet, but that's not unusual -- among players with at least 20 goals, Simmonds' average shooting distance of 26.0 feet during the regular season ranked 15th, so he makes his bones as a presence in front of the net.

In addition, or at least underlying his three-goal performance, Simmonds generated 11 shot attempts in only 12:50 of ice time.

While Simmonds was cleaning up the scraps around the Rangers' net, Mason was taking care of business in the Philadelphia net, making quite a few high-quality saves to preserve the Flyers' lead, even though the Rangers carried a lot of the play (and before score effects kicked in). Mason has stopped 92 of 98 shots that he's faced (.939 SV%) since joining the series in Game Three. That's better than usual from Mason, who has a career save percentage of .907 and a .920 mark in 68 games with the Flyers, but Philadelphia needs him to continue at that level for one more game to get through this series.

Flyers D Erik Gustafsson, replacing Hal Gill (who was replacing Nicklas Grossman) in the lineup, scored a goal on a breakaway coming out of the penalty box and had solid relative possession numbers.

For the Blueshirts, Henrik Lundqvist comes with the much higher pedigree, but after allowing four goals on 23 shots in Game Six (before getting pulled in favour of Cam Talbot), his save percentage in the series has dipped to .892 (132 saves on 148 shots). Lundqvist has a .920 career save percentage in both the regular season and playoffs, over a span of 647 games. That track record ranks him among the elite puckstoppers in the league, but it's imperative for the Rangers that Lundqvist bounce back in Game Seven.

It's not just Lundqvist that needs to be better, though. The Rangers' power play is in a 0-for-20 streak since Benoit Pouliot's goal in the first period of Game Two. While RW Rick Nash has yet to score a goal in the series, he's put 25 shots on goal and has the best possession numbers for the Rangers in the series.

Flyers C Claude Giroux contributed a goal and two assists to the cause, his goal coming into an empty net with 4:11 remaining in the third period, giving him six points through six games.

Rangers LW Carl Hagelin scored a goal, but created many chances in Game Six, registering nine shot attempts in 14:50 of ice time and rookie J.T. Miller had an assist for the second straight game since being inserted into the lineup.

No team has won back-to-back games in this series, so perhaps that favours the Rangers going into Game Seven, though owning the possession battle would be more relevant.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.