COLUMBUS, Ohio – Jason Williams had the goal to beat his former teammates. Yet all the Detroit Red Wings could talk about was the kid in goal for Columbus who made that goal stand up.
Williams scored with 6:55 left to give the Blue Jackets a 3-2 victory over Detroit on Friday night, ending the Stanley Cup champions’ winning streak at six games.
The game marked the return of Columbus rookie goalie Steve Mason, who had missed three games while battling a draining case of mononucleosis. He stopped 32 shots, many while the Red Wings applied heavy pressure in the final minutes.
“It’s the best I’ve felt in a really long time,” said Mason, who leads the NHL in shutouts (7) and goals-against average (2.09). “I’ve a lot of pep back – my attitude, my demeanour or whatever. I feel really good right now.”
His best save might have come with 38 seconds left when he slid laterally with stacked pads to thwart Henrik Zetterberg’s shot. In the final five seconds, Mason sealed off the corner of the net to deflect a desperate shot by Marian Hossa.
“He’s good. He’s real good,” said Chris Osgood, a three-time Cup winner in goal for the Red Wings. “He kind of reminds me of Tom Barrasso when he used to play. He’s real agile and has quick reflexes and he’s big. He doesn’t just rely on his butterfly. He moves around and makes some big saves.”
Williams, the former Detroit player acquired in a trade with Atlanta on Jan. 15, scored in his third straight game to help the Blue Jackets win their third in a row – all over teams in the tight Western Conference playoff race.
“It’s always nice to score against your former team,” said Williams, who broke in with the Red Wings in 2000-01 and played through the 2006-07 season, winning a ring of his own in 2002. “For that to be the game-winner, that’s a little icing on the cake, I guess.”
Raffi Torres and Jason Chimera also scored for Columbus, and Jake Voracek had two assists. Nicklas Lidstrom and Mikael Samuelsson had tying goals for the Red Wings. Osgood finished with 22 saves.
Williams’ winner came when he got the puck from Voracek near the blue line and skated in from the right wing, beating Osgood inside the near post.
“I thought about passing, but I was in the same area the other night and I shot it and I scored. I figured, why not try it again?” he said.
“(Chimera) kind of came back to the bench and told me to never look him off again,” Williams said, laughing. “I told him that he already had one. It’s just nice that it went in.”
The Red Wings had tied it earlier in the period when Samuelsson took a pass from Jiri Hudler and ripped a shot from the slot that Mason could not glove for his 16th of the season.
A crowd of 18,802 was the largest ever announced for a Columbus home game. They gave a lengthy standing ovation to the Blue Jackets at the finish.
“They’ve got a real good team,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “They’ve got good balance and heavy bodies. And I thought Mason did a good job.”
After Torres opened the scoring thanks to a turnover by Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios, the Red Wings evened things early in the second on Lidstrom’s goal just seconds after he skated out of the penalty box.
The Blue Jackets made it 2-1 midway through the period when Russell’s slap shot resulted in a big rebound. From a scrum in the slot, Voracek was able to poke the puck to Chimera in the right circle whose first shot was stopped by Osgood but he was able to tap in the rebound.
Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock was pleased to have his 6-foot-4 security blanket back in goal for the wild, closing minutes.
“It was reassuring,” Hitchcock said. Then he smiled.
Notes: At the same time Mason was activated, Columbus sent rookie G Dan LaCosta, who went 2-0-0 with a 1.54 goals-against average, down to Syracuse (AHL). … Roughly three weeks before the trade deadline, scouts from Pittsburgh, Carolina, St. Louis and the New York Islanders watched the Wings and Blue Jackets. … A comical moment took place 3:38 into the third when Cleary was bumped into the back of the goal cage and, as Mason went down on all fours, it slowly fell forward to almost imprison him.