WHAT IF?

Two simple words, combined together, to provide one impossible question for the Flyers to answer. What if the Flyers' four-game losing streak last week were, instead, only two games?

The question makes you wonder, after Steve Mason perfectly encapsulated the Flyers' gutsy, 4-2 win over the Rangers by refusing to leave the game - despite severe cramps caused by dehydration - as he clung to the lead and his team's scant playoff hopes.

Mason slugged some Gatorade during timeouts, took a Motrin and waved off a stretching Ilya Bryzgalov.

"It was a game that as a hockey player, you want to be a part of," said Mason, who stopped 38 of 40 shots to stonewall the visiting Rangers Tuesday night. "It was an important game for myself and the team. It was a 'must' win in terms of the playoff race, with them being in the eighth spot right now. It was a good performance and a big win."

Mason outdueled reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist to hand the Flyers only their second win against the Rangers over their last 13 meetings.

It was perhaps the Flyers' best outing by a goaltender through their first 43 games of the season, as Mason is showing signs of his Calder Trophy-winning self in his first four games since being acquired from Columbus 2 weeks ago. Mason called the last four seasons in Columbus "a drain mentally; there were so many negatives there."

Tuesday night marked Mason's first win as a Flyer. He's compiled a .941 save percentage and 1.82 goals-against average in four outings. His statistics are even more impressive when you consider the mostly minor league defense that's been suiting up in front of him.

"He looked like his first year, when he won the rookie of the year," said Jake Voracek, who was his teammate in Columbus that season. "He was all over the place. He's made a lot of huge stops for us. I think he's playing with a lot of confidence right now. He got that second wind when he was traded here, I think you can definitely tell when he's in the crease."

Mason said he already has tweaked his game under the tutelage of goaltending coach Jeff Reese.

"It's a fresh start with an entire new organization, new fans, teammates, just a breath of fresh air," Mason said. "We've been working on things. The main thing has been reducing my depth off the rush and making my game more simple. I'm 6-4, and I can take up a lot of the net, more than most guys."