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Goal against Mason from center ice proves deadly to Flyers

WASHINGTON -- Game 2 between the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers was a tale of two goalies.

At one end of the ice, Braden Holtby turned in another outstanding performance, his 41-save outing helping the Capitals to a 2-0 series lead with a 4-1 win Saturday night at Verizon Center.

At the other end of the ice, Steve Mason had a momentary brain freeze and his massive miscue proved crucial in the Flyers' loss. With the Capitals holding a 1-0 lead early in the second, they were looking for a line change and wanted to get the puck deep into the offensive zone. Defenseman Karl Alzner passed the puck to Jason Chimera, who redirected a dump-in attempt from behind the red line -- he was 101 feet out -- which trickled toward Mason and somehow slipped through the five-hole to give Washington a 2-0 lead at 2:26 of the period.

"It wasn't good," Mason said. "My fault, obviously, and I put the team in a tough position after that and it was just a bad goal."

So, what happened?

"I just tried to put it into the corner," he said. "Yeah, I messed up. ... You can say it over and over again -- it was a bad goal."

Mason, who finished with 19 saves, had made an outstanding stop moments earlier, robbing John Carlson with a post-to-post split save. It appeared Mason was injured on the play and it took him a moment to get to his skates. On the next shot, Chimera scored from center ice. Mason said he was not hurt and it had nothing to do with why the puck went in.

"No, I just overextended there and I'm fine," he said.

With the way Holtby reacted when asked about the goal, you would've have thought he was the one allowed it to slip through his legs. He was genuinely concerned for Mason.

"I couldn't even watch the replay of it," Holtby said. "As a fellow goalie, you never want to see that happen. I'm glad it wasn't a one-goal game in the end. Even as the opposing team, you want to earn your goals and weird bounces like that is just, I feel for him, but in saying that we're going to have to be extra prepared next game because he's an NHL goaltender and he's mentally tough, so he's going to be coming back with a very good game and we've got to be ready for that."

Chimera was not available after the game to talk about his "goal" because he was receiving treatment.

With the Flyers down 2-0 in this Eastern Conference first-round series, and with Games 3 and 4 coming up at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Monday and Wednesday, respectively, Flyers coach Dave Hakstol might be considering a goalie change.

"I haven't thought a whole lot about that," Hakstol said. "What are we, 20 minutes from the end of the hockey game here, fellas? Mase has been outstanding for us and we're going to [evaluate] our lineup as we've done all year long and we'll do what's best for our hockey team. Mase has been a guy that's carried us through different parts of this season, but no question down the stretch he's been the guy and done a great job for us, so I haven't considered [changing goalies] to this point and time but that's how I feel about Mase."

After Michal Neuvirth suffered a lower-body injury in mid-March, Mason played 12 consecutive games and posted a 6-4-2 record, a 2.21 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage to help the Flyers earn a postseason berth. Neuvirth finished the regular season with an 18-8-4 record, a 2.27 GAA and a .924 save percentage in 32 games. If he hadn't been injured late in the season, it's likely he would have been the starting goalie in the playoffs.

We're only two games into the Stanley Cup playoffs, so let's try not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but Holtby is showing early signs of becoming a potential Conn Smythe candidate. The Flyers came out hard and fast against the Capitals from the opening drop in Game 2, which Washington anticipated. Philadelphia was throwing pucks at the net from all different spots and were trying to create chaos around Holtby's crease.

"He was fantastic," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.

Holtby made 19 saves in the first period and finished with 41. It was his 16th 40-plus save postseason performance of his career.

"We feed off him a lot," Capitals assistant captain Nicklas Backstrom said. "He's so calm back there too. He makes these big saves and give us guys energy on the bench. We feed off that a lot and then we build off that."