Banished to the bench last week, Steve Mason was ultra-sharp in his return Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Resembling the goalie who had a career season in 2014-15, Mason made 36 saves to steer the Flyers to a 2-0 win over the sagging Vancouver Canucks.
"He made some key saves at key moments," said Sean Couturier, who secured the win by scoring on a rebound with 2 minutes, 50 seconds remaining. "I mean, he kept us in the game."
It was Mason's first home win since Oct. 24, a span of eight games.
Mason, making his first start in the last four games, made 11 saves in the first 13-plus minutes and got into a rhythm that lasted the entire night.
"It was nice to see some shots put on the board and kind of get a feel for it early on," Mason said after recording his second shutout of the season and 28th of his career. "It's easy to overthink things when you haven't played in a little while, so to get a little bit of a feel for the puck was a nice, welcoming thing."
Michael Raffl scored what turned out to be the game-winner for the Flyers, who are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. The Flyers are 14-12-6, the first time they have two more wins than regulation losses since Oct. 27, when they were 4-2-2.
"We're playing better as a team, and when it comes down to the end of the game, we don't panic," captain Claude Giroux said. "We keep playing the way we want to play. You can just feel on the bench that the guys are more confident than the start of the year."
With a little over two minutes left in the second period and the Flyers protecting a 1-0 lead, Mason made one of his best saves of the season, moving quickly from left to right and throwing up his glove at the last second to swat away Alexander Edler's point-blank shot.
"A desperation save that you might make one time out of 30," Mason said.
Vancouver's Radim Vrbata put his screened point blast past Mason a split second after the horn sounded to end the second period, allowing the Flyers to maintain their 1-0 lead.
The Flyers were outplayed for most of the first period, but they gained some momentum from three late power plays in the session and took a 1-0 lead on Raffl's fourth goal of the season.
Just as a power play expired with 3:15 left in the first, Raffl made a deft deflection on Evgeny Medvedev's slap shot from the point, putting the shot over backup goalie Jacob Markstrom's left shoulder and off the camera inside the net. Play continued before the Situation Room ordered a stoppage. Replays showed the puck had, in fact, gone in and out of the net.
The Flyers, as it turned out, went 1 for 2 on goal reviews.
With 14:37 remaining in the second period, Giroux scored on a breakaway, according to the officials on the ice. But the goal was disallowed after replays showed the puck hit the crossbar and did not enter the net.
Mason allowed three goals on 10 shots and was pulled from his previous start early in the second period on Dec. 8. The Flyers lost to the Islanders, 4-3, in overtime.
"It's been a tough start to the year; it's definitely not the way I drew it up," Mason said after the morning skate. "But sometimes you just take it as it is and focus on the future because that's what you can control; you can't control what's already happened."
Vancouver, which lost the services of gifted center Henrik Sedin to an unspecified injury early in the second period, had 19 shots blocked, including four by Brandon Manning.
Mason admitted being frustrated by his lack of playing time lately.
"You come to the rink and you work hard and try to put on a happy face, but personally you're not happy with the situation you're in," said Mason, who avenged last month's 4-1 loss in Vancouver and handed the Canucks their fourth shutout in their last nine games. "But that's something you accept. The thing you control is how hard you work in practice to prepare."