PHILADELPHIA – Wayne Simmonds and the Philadelphia Flyers are going back to New York for Game 7. There is no time to waste, too.
Simmonds scored three goals, Steve Mason stopped 34 shots and the Flyers beat the Rangers 5-2 on Tuesday night to even their first Eastern Conference playoff series at three games apiece.
Erik Gustafsson also scored as Philadelphia added a third Game 7 to the NHL schedule for Wednesday night. While the other two series last played on Monday night, the Flyers and Rangers have a quick turnaround before their final game at Madison Square Garden.
“You’ve got to hop on the train and put it behind you. I’ve got a few episodes of ‘Scandal’ to catch up on,” Mason said, referring to the popular TV show.
Simmonds scored in the first period and twice more in the second for his first career postseason hat trick. Mason survived a busy first period and stopped 31 straight shots until Carl Hagelin scored late in the third. Mats Zuccarello also scored for New York in the final minute.
By the third, Simmonds had ready helped stake the Flyers to a 4-0 lead and the outcome was a mere formality. Mason raised his stick in the final minutes toward a rowdy crowd that wouldn’t stop chanting his name.
Claude Giroux had an empty-netter for the Flyers, who will try for a second win in New York this series.
“We’re not ready to go home yet,” Simmonds said.
Simmonds, a 29-goal scorer who had one in the first five games, completed the hat trick with 4:41 left in the second. With a short break, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was yanked for Cam Talbot to open the third period.
Lundqvist stopped 19 of 23 shots. He couldn’t stop Simmonds.
“I already started thinking about (Game 7),” Lundqvist said. “You don’t want to analyze this too much. We have a Game 7 at home.”
Simmonds camped out in the dirty area, in front of the crease, and pounded home three short goals that had the home fans going wild. On the brink of elimination, about the only thing that could slow down the Flyers were their fans — the game was delayed for a lengthy cleanup after they littered the ice with hats. Someone even threw a shoe.
Outplayed for most of the series, Philadephia was lucky to escape the first period with a 1-0 lead. The Flyers were careless with the puck in their own zone and had nine turnovers, which led to a ton of work for Mason, who made 13 saves in the period.
“It’s always important to feel the puck early,” he said. “I was able to make a couple of timely saves to start off the game and feel good for the rest of it. It was nice to be busy a little earlier in the game.”