Hockey / Sports

The Philadelphia Flyers' Wayne Simmonds celebrates his third goal against the New York Rangers in the second period during Game 6 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 29, 2014. (Ron Cortes/Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT)

Flyers rout the Rangers to force Game 7

PHILADELPHIA -- The Flyers will have at least another day to grow their playoff beards.

Facing elimination, they got a hat trick from Wayne Simmonds and superb goaltending from Steve Mason as they defeated the New York Rangers, 5-2, before a sellout crowd at the reverberating Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night, evening the series at three games apiece.

Game 7 will be Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, where the Flyers have one win in their last 11 games. It will be the teams' third game in four nights.

In franchise history, the Flyers are 9-6 in Game 7s, including wins in their last three showdowns -- at Washington in 2008, at Boston in 2010, and against visiting Buffalo in 2011.

The Flyers are 3-3 in road Game 7s, winning their last two.

Wednesday's survivor will face Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan Division finals.

Simmonds scored two of his three goals on the power play, and Erik Gustafsson added a breakaway score. Claude Giroux (three points) finished the Flyers' scoring with an empty-net goal.

Just as he did in a 2-1 win in Game 4, Mason had a showstopping performance.

When he stopped Carl Hagelin on a breakaway midway through the third period, he stayed down on the ice for a few seconds, snow-angel style, leery to move because he didn't want the puck to slide into the net.

"Ma-son ... Ma-son," the fans chanted, giving the 25-year-old goaltender a standing ovation.

Before the game, coach Craig Berube said the Flyers hadn't "initiated enough in the first period yet, and we need to. Our mind-set is to come out hard early."

Simmonds apparently got the memo.

For just the second time in the series, the Flyers scored the game's first goal, a power-play tally by Simmonds.

With Simmonds stationed in front of the net, his first shot was kicked aside by defenseman Ryan McDonagh. The puck squirted back to Simmonds, and he knocked home the rebound 7 minutes, 8 seconds into the game.

Joy-struck, Simmonds leaped into the arms of Jake Voracek. In the regular season, he was second in the NHL with 15 power-play goals.

"I guess that's becoming kind of my forte," Simmonds said.

Mason made several difficult stops in the first period, including point-blank saves on Rick Nash and Anton Stralman. Mason took a .935 series save percentage into the game, and he stopped all 13 first-period shots.

Simmonds made it 2-0 1:32 into the second period, scoring after Brayden Schenn flubbed a shot but the puck took a fortuitous bounce to the right winger in front of the net.

About 13 minutes later, Gustafsson increased the cushion to 3-0, charging out of the penalty box, taking a feed from Braydon Coburn and beating Lundqvist on a breakaway.

The rout was underway when Simmonds tipped in Jake Voracek's power-play drive 58 seconds after Gustaffson's goal, giving the Flyers a 4-0 lead with 4:41 to go in the second period. That completed his second- hat trick -- and first in the playoffs.

New York snapped Mason's shutout when Hagelin scored on a rebound with 6:34 left in the game. By then, the outcome wasn't in doubt.

By then, the teams knew this series would have a grueling finish -- games on back-to-back nights.

(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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