Steve Mason grabbed his water bottle from the top of the net and raised his helmet. The Flyers goalie had allowed his third goal of the game. It was time for another break.
Mason's defense forced him to fend for himself Thursday night as the New Jersey Devils blitzed the net in the third period of a 4-1 loss. The goaltender took a squirt from the bottle and turned to the Wells Fargo Center scoreboard.
He watched a replay of Travis Zajac's power-play goal, which was fired past three Flyers who were shielding Mason. The goaltender never had a chance. It was New Jersey's second goal in just more than a minute. Kyle Palmieri beat Mason on a breakaway after Evgeny Medvedev turned the puck over near center ice. Mason was left alone with Palmieri, who snapped a shot into the top corner. Mason's defense did not give him a chance.
"They have some speed and they create some chances," Mason said. "It's my job to stop the puck and try to do the best you can. But they definitely had their opportunities. We have to have a better overall game."
Mason finished with 29 saves. The Devils tacked on a fourth goal with 7.6 seconds left, scoring on an empty net after Mason was lifted for an extra skater. The Flyers activated Michal Neuvirth from injured reserve on Thursday afternoon. He should be able to offer Mason some relief during the team's five-game road trip.
"There's been some inconsistencies," Mason said about the team's first month. "That's kind of why you win one, you lose one, win two, lose two. I think we need to shore up some things in order to become a consistently good hockey team. It's frustrating because you see the glimpses of how good the team can be."
The Flyers were penalized twice for having too many men on the ice. Coach Dave Hakstol said he has to communicate better on the bench. That was the bottom line, he said.
"A lot of it is focus on those changes. There's no excuse for that," Jake Voracek said. "It should happen twice a year, not twice a game. It came back to bite us in the end. There's no excuse for that."
Luke Schenn scored the Flyers' lone goal with 4:45 left in the second period. The defenseman caught New Jersey off guard with a shot from the left side. It was his first goal of the season and it gave the team a 1-0 lead. Schenn ripped his shot sharply off the chest of Devils goaltender Cory Schneider and it bounced into the net. He has four points in his last three games.
The lead would not hold for long. Zajac tied the score less than three minutes later, stuffing a goal past Mason. Zajac played under Hakstol in college at North Dakota. Mason had stopped his previous 21 shots. The goaltender kept the Flyers alive in the first period, when they were outshot, 14-7. He snared a New Jersey shot with a snapping glove save.
The Devils tested him with 11 shots in the game's first 15 minutes. Two of the their chances smacked the post. Early on, it looked like Thursday night would belong to Mason. There was only so much he could do.