COLUMBUS, Ohio – After the worst six weeks in franchise history, the Columbus Blue Jackets have had five really good days.
Mathieu Garon made 26 saves for his second shutout of the season, and Raffi Torres and Antoine Vermette scored in the Blue Jackets’ 2-0 victory over the Dallas Stars on Sunday night.
“I don’t see any reason why we can’t play like this for the rest of the year,” coach Ken Hitchcock said of his team, which had lost 21 of its previous 24 games before back-to-back road wins in Edmonton and Calgary and the victory over the Stars, a perpetual nemesis. “I’m hoping we can continue down this path and play this way. We’re grinding it with really good teams and we’re more than holding our own.”
It was the first time the Blue Jackets have won three straight since Nov. 13-19.
“It’s been a while since we’ve won three in a row,” Torres said. “We’re feeling good in this room. We’re just calm, cool, we’re just taking it easy right now. We know what we need to do. We’re sticking with the game plan and going from there.”
The shutout was the 16th of Garon’s career and his 101st victory.
“Guys battled all the way tonight,” said Garon, who has beaten out Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason with his fine play of late. “We played a really good game defensively. It makes it easier. It makes it a lot more fun for a goalie to play with guys who are trying really hard.”
The Blue Jackets got the only goal they needed at 8:20 of the opening period.
On a three-man rush, Derick Brassard slid a cross-ice pass from the left wing that deflected off the skates of defenceman Maxime Fortunus. The puck slid all the way to the right dot, where Torres went to one knee to one-time it past Marty Turco for his 13th of the season.
“It was a great pass. Brass can make those plays all night long when you give him that kind of space,” Torres said. “It’s just my job to get open and I was fortunate enough to get one in.”
The Blue Jackets are 18-2-2 when Torres has a goal.
Vermette extended his points streak to four games with a late empty-netter. He said Columbus was gaining confidence after losing six times when leading after two periods.
“That seems to be the history of our season. Too many games – we don’t want to think about it too much – we were in the position, the game is right on the line, we don’t get that final goal or that bounce and they come back on us,” Vermette said. “Tonight was a great effort. Mathieu was a big factor tonight. He made some huge saves on big breakaways at key moments.”
Vermette was referring to two huge solo stops by Garon.
A giveaway led to Loui Eriksson coming in all alone on Garon late in the first period. But Garon was able to block the shot with his right leg pad.
Then Dallas captain Mike Modano took a long stretch pass and coasted in 1-on-1 with 2½ minutes left in the game. Garon went down in the butterfly to stop the shot, but the puck rebounded off a leg pad and trickled in front of him, just out of reach of his catcher.
“I made the first save and the rebound was laying there,” Garon said.
Stars forward Steve Ott, crashing the net, got his stick on the loose puck at the same instant as defenceman Anton Stralman, the puck flying over the top of the goal cage.
“We did get some glorious chances and didn’t put them away,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said. “Any time you have two breakaways, point-blank breakaways, and you’ve got good guys getting them, you hope you get something out of it.”
Garon received a standing ovation late in the second period after he stopped five shots in a 30-second flurry by the Stars. Hitchcock called timeout to allow him to catch his breath.
It was a rare Columbus win in the series. The Stars came in with a 25-5-4 mark against the Blue Jackets. They were 12-2-2 in Columbus and had picked up points in their last 11 games at Nationwide Arena.
It was Dallas’ first loss in Columbus since Nov. 1, 2002.
NOTES: Columbus LW Fredrick Modin (bruised foot) was scratched. … Dallas was shut out for the third time this season – and second time in four games. … Blue Jackets D Jan Hejda, who had goals in the last games, assisted on Torres’ first-period goal for the first three-game points streak of his 241-game career.