Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Steve Mason craned his neck toward the ceiling in utter dismay. The puck that came sliding down the ice from beyond the red line somehow went between his legs and nestled in the net behind him.
Many of the Washington Capitals fans who didn’t even see the puck go in started taunting him with chants of, “Ma-son, Ma-son.”
There was nothing Mason could do but wonder after his “How did that happen?” blunder handed the Capitals a 4-1 win Saturday night in Game 2 and a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.
“Can say it over and over again, ‘It’s a bad goal,'” said Mason, his face flush after about as embarrassing a miscue as an NHL goaltender can make. “That wasn’t good. My fault, obviously. Put the team in a tough position after that. Just a bad goal.”
Jason Chimera got credit for the goal, the game-winner, on a 101-foot tip-in on a play that would have been icing had it not gone on the net.
A 5-on-3 penalty kill and several notable saves by Holtby made Washington players feel better than Mason’s gaffe did. Ovechkin said the Capitals will “take it,” though Holtby felt awful as a fellow goalie.
“I couldn’t even watch the replay of it,” said Holtby, who made 19 first-period saves to match his total from Game 1. “Even as an opposing team, you want to earn your goals and whatnot (instead of) weird bounces like that. I feel for him.”
It was 1-0 early in the second period when Mason did a split to stop Carlson from scoring his second goal of the game and third of the series. Mason was slow to get up and remained in the game, but less than a minute later made the mistake that will be shown on bad-goal blooper reels for decades.
After defenseman Karl Alzner backhanded the puck from his goal line, Chimera tipped it from the Capitals’ side of the red line. It slid five-hole on Mason, who thought about directing the puck into the corner but simply whiffed.
“Because it was spinning so much, it kind of started redirecting in front, so he had no chance to play it,” Alzner said. “Unfortunate for him, it went in the net.”
Ovechkin, who set a physical tone with big hits on Michael Raffl and Brayden Schenn and later scored his 37th career Stanley Cup playoff goal, hadn’t seen anything like Chimera’s fluke goal since his childhood.
“When I was a little kid, Andrei Markov scored a goal from behind the net,” Ovechkin said. “Sometimes that kind of stuff happens.”
Teammate Ryan White skated over to console Mason, who was phenomenal in Game 1 and one of the biggest reasons the Flyers even made the playoffs. Mason, who stopped 19 of 23 shots but not the one from Chimera that no one will soon forget, appreciated the support.
“Just let him know we have his back and that’s about it,” forward Wayne Simmonds said. “He’s going to continue to play well for us, and we have no doubts about that.”
Meanwhile, Holtby continues to play at an elite level. After tying Martin Brodeur’s single-season wins record, Holtby has stopped 60 of 61 shots so far in the first round to boost his NHL-best career playoff save percentage to .938.
“He’s making saves all over the place and sometimes you’re just shocked when he gets to stop the puck,” said Capitals forward Marcus Johansson, who had two assists. “He wins games every week, and he’s done it all year. He was a huge part in this one.”
Holtby was the best player on the ice for 5-on-3 and 4-on-3 penalty kills as Washington improved to 7 for 7 when down a man or more. The power play is 3 for 8 thanks to goals by Carlson and Ovechkin after finishing the regular season 0 for 12 and going 3 for 28 in the 2015 playoffs.
“We learned a lot from last year,” coach Barry Trotz said. “The adjustments we’ve made … have been really, really smart.”
The Flyers will need to make plenty of adjustments as the series shifts to Philadelphia for Game 3 Monday. Jakub Voracek scored their only goal of the series during 4-on-4 play in the second period, but the Flyers came up empty where it mattered after outshooting the Capitals 42-23.
“Not a pretty one, but we’ll take it,” Ovechkin said. “It’s done, we’ll move forward and Game 3 ahead.”
F Scott Laughton entered the Flyers’ lineup in place of Sean Couturier, out for the series with an apparent left shoulder injury. … Carlson became the first Capitals defenseman with power-play goals in consecutive playoff games since Al Iafrate in 1993. … With 71 playoff points, Ovechkin is one shy of tying Dale Hunter for first on the franchise’s career list.