Emery or Zepp tonight in Winnipeg?
Before 12 minutes elapsed, the Maple Leafs had netted 3 goals on just 6 shots.
Rob Zepp was getting antsy on the bench.
He was one shot or odd bounce away from his career pinnacle and storybook moment. To make it to the NHL as a 33-year-old and dress in his first game in his hometown was one thing, but a goaltender doesn't actually make it into the record books without stepping into the crease.
"You know it's always a possibility," Zepp said of his mentality on the bench. "But we settled down after that and the guys really turned it on. It was a great performance and a huge win against a good team."
After waiting more than 15 years, he would have to wait at least one more day to fully realize his childhood dream.
Playing without the injured Steve Mason, Emery and the Flyers rebounded from a two-goal deficit to rout the Maple Leafs, 7-4, at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.
It wasn't pretty, but Emery notched his sixth win of the season in 12 outings. He stopped 21 of 25 shots in all. Both Mason and Emery have an equal number of wins.
"He had a few he'd like to have back, but he battled and stayed with it," coach Craig Berube said. "That's what he does. He wins games. That's what Ray does."
As the Flyers scurried to the airport for a nearly 1,000-mile flight across Canada to the prairies, Berube faced a conundrum. His Flyers kicked off a season-long eight game road trip with a win. They play three games in four nights in three different cities before breaking for Christmas.
The wild card is Mason's health. The team will not have a more detailed picture of Mason's status until Monday, so they are unable to pinpoint an exact amount of time their starting goaltender will miss - even though GM Ron Hextall sounded optimistic on Saturday. He admitted, though, that a doctor had yet to lay his hands on Mason. Doctors only had information relayed from trainer Jim McCrossin.
Should Berube ride Emery as long as he can? Or should he play it conservative for now?
More to the point: should Zepp be given the start on Sunday night in Winnipeg?
"I don't know yet, to be honest with you," Berube said after Saturday's win. "Ray won, so… I'll think about it. He did what he had to do to win the game."
All signs point toward Zepp making his first career start.
Most tellingly, Zepp spent nearly an hour working with goaltending coach Jeff Reese in detail after Saturday's morning skate.
"It was just to take some pucks and get the feet going to the NHL speed again," Zepp explained. "There were also a couple situational things that we worked on that I might face. It's just a matter of getting the timing and the pace acclimated to the guys up here."
If ever there was a position that made sense, Sunday night in Winnipeg is it. The Jets are holding down a playoff position in the West, yes, but they have also scored the third-fewest goals (80) in the conference.
Emery, 32, has also had a questionable injury history, given his major hip surgery and there are lingering questions about his wear and tear. Then again, Saturday was just his second game in the month of December.
"It wasn't the ideal start for the team or myself, but I'll take an ugly win any time," Emery said. "The team played well in front of me. We didn't get rattled being down early … Like I said, I wasn't particularly happy with my game, but a win is a win."
Zepp, 33, has put together a strong season as the Phantoms' starter with an 8-5-4 record and .918 save percentage, especially considering he hadn't played on a North American-sized ice surface in 9 years prior to training camp. That's because he spent the last decade in Europe, where he won five championships in seven seasons in the German league.
He became so settled, so comfortable in Berlin that Zepp became a German citizen and represented the country in the World Championships.
An itch to take one last swing at the NHL led him to sign a deal with the Flyers this summer, on the off chance that an injury or freak occurrence led to a night like Saturday. That it came 40 miles south of his hometown of Bradford, Ontario, where he spends his summers and raises his family was all the better.
"It's been a bit of a whirlwind the last 24 hours," Zepp said after the game. "I didn't play tonight but just to have it be my first NHL game, in Toronto where I grew up and on Hockey Night in Canada, it was pretty special. It would be a dream come true to play. I have no idea what's going to happen, but I'm one step closer than I've ever been. It's been a long road."
Jake Voracek regained the NHL scoring lead with 4 assists on the night. He is now three points up on Dallas' Tyler Seguin and teammate Claude Giroux in the race. It matched his career-high for points and assists, something he first accomplished on Feb. 18, 2013 on Long Island ... Claude Giroux also posted 4 points and is now tied with Seguin. It was Giroux's 13th career two-goal game, but he still has not registered a regular season hat trick ... Nick Grossmann set a new career-high for goals (3) with his strange, ssecond period shot that snuck past Jonathan Bernier ... Bernier was replaced by James Reimer after the Flyers' 7th goal ... Every Flyers player from Ontario registered a point in the game except for Zac Rinaldo, who left the game early with an "upper-body" injury and did not return ... The Flyers are now 7-3-1 in Saturday games this season and just 5-11-5 on any other day that ends in 'y' ... Toronto lost for the first time all season (14-1-0) when scoring the game's first goal.
Three goals were scored in a span of 26 seconds in the first period, setting franchise records for both the Flyers and Maple Leafs for the fastest goals scored by both teams. Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux scored for the Flyers, sandwiching a David Clarkson tally by the Leafs.
"I think it was just urgency. We need to have that in our game and bring that in the next game and on and on. It's something that we need from now on if we want to stay in the playoff hunt. We've got to battle every night."
-- Flyers forward Sean Couturier on what sparked the team's more aggressive play against the Maple Leafs. The Flyers won a majority of the board battles in Toronto and controlled the bulk of puck possession.
On Twitter: @frank_seravalli