The Flyers and their fans have been holding their breath as they wait for goaltender Steve Mason to return from an upper-body injury. But after Game 2, no one will be turning blue while Mason heals.

That's because Ray Emery, essentially considered the stand-in goaltender, was the biggest reason the Flyers are even in this Eastern Conference first-round series against the Rangers. Emery, who wasn't exactly bad in the Rangers' 4-1 Game 1 win, was superb Sunday, making 31 saves in the Flyers' 4-2 victory.

"We don't win that game without Razor," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said.

The Rangers appeared ready to send Emery back to the bench with two goals in the first 8:22, both of which came off cross-ice passes that seemed to expose his lack of lateral movement.

But Emery, whose last playoff win was three years ago to the day with Anaheim, didn't look so slow going post-to-post in the crucial second period. He anticipated the extra pass by Martin St. Louis for Derek Stepan with less than two minutes left in the period, getting over to deflect Stepan's shot out of play. That was one of 17 second-period saves for Emery and one of a half-dozen that either preserved a 2-2 tie or kept the Flyers in front.

One of Emery's best saves was a point-blank stop late in the second against Rick Nash, who was all alone in front with the puck after Stepan forced a turnover by the Flyers in front of their own net. A few seconds later, Emery stopped John Moore with another close-in shot.

"He's a battler, he always has been," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "I've known Ray for a while and he just stays with it. He's very good at that, a true pro."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Emery managed a cagey smile when asked if he heard the "We want Hextall" chants from the Garden crowd after the Rangers grabbed that 2-0 lead in the first. Flyers assistant general manager Ron Hextall was in the Philly net during two Flyers-Rangers series in 1987 and 1997 and has long been a Garden target.

Mason skated on his own Sunday morning and might again Monday. "I don't want to say he's going to skate and then he doesn't feel so good," coach Craig Berube said. "We'll look at that when it comes about. I'm not really thinking that far ahead."

Neither is Emery, who signed with the Flyers after winning a Stanley Cup as Corey Crawford's backup with the Blackhawks last season. Emery signed a one-year, $1.65-million deal, looking to prove he could be a starter. Then Berube replaced Peter Laviolette early this season, and Emery was locked in as the backup.

Asked if it'll be tough if he has to give up the job to Mason in Tuesday's Game 3, Emery shook his head. "You always prepare to play, and when I get a chance, I want to do well," he said. "I'm fortunate to be in there and I want to make the most of it."