COLUMBUS, Ohio – Now that the Columbus Blue Jackets have seemingly solved their goaltending issues, now they just have to take care of scoring first.
Mathieu Garon made 29 saves in his debut as the Blue Jackets’ No. 1 goalie, and Columbus snapped a four-game losing streak by beating the Calgary Flames 3-1 on Tuesday night.
For only the second time in 11 games, the Blue Jackets scored first, on a wrist shot by Jakub Voracek. Columbus is 13-2 when netting the first goal, but 4-11-3 after trailing 1-0.
“It seems to be less stress on everybody, and we can focus on what we had to do,” said Garon, who took over the starting job this week from the struggling Steve Mason. “It’s huge to get that first goal. We felt better playing with the lead.”
Garon, a 10-year NHL veteran who won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009, was square to shooters and controlled his rebounds. The same can’t be said of Mason, pulled in three of his last four starts. His goals-against average and save percentage have dropped near the bottom of the league.
The 2009 rookie of the year in the NHL has been replaced a league-high 12 times the last two seasons.
“Matty, when it got late in the game and we were sitting on our lead a little bit, was strong,” rookie Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said. “He gave us an opportunity to win the game.”
Jared Boll and Rostislav Klesla also scored for Columbus, which had only two wins in 12 games.
Olli Jokinen had the lone goal for Calgary, which lost its third straight.
Rookie Henrik Karlsson made 34 stops in his seventh outing of the season for the Flames, who have the worst road record in the Western Conference (5-11-3). Calgary has dropped five consecutive games and nine of 11 on the road.
“Karlsson played well,” Flames coach Brent Sutter said. “When you score just one goal, that makes it tough. We had some chances and some opportunities and didn’t capitalize on them.”
Calgary has scored three times in their last three games.
Voracek scored his sixth at 5:14 of the first. He curled off the half boards, skated past two defenders on his way to the high slot, and wristed a shot past Karlsson’s glove hand. The goal was Voracek’s first in 13 games.
“It’s been a while since we scored the first goal, and we finally did it,” Voracek said. “It’s huge to be up early in the game, and Matty played great in the net.”
The Flames nearly got on the board early in the second period, but Garon got just enough of Curtis Glenncross’ slap shot to deflect it off the post.
Columbus converted its best chance of the period to make it 2-0. After a faceoff win in the Calgary zone, Tom Sestito threw a hard-angled shot at the net that caromed off the right post. The puck landed at the feet of Boll, who jammed it in at 11:18 for his third goal.
“We made a good play, battling hard at the net,” Boll said.
Five minutes later, with Antoine Vermette serving his second interference penalty of the period, Jokinen took a cross-ice pass from Jarome Iginla and shot a one-timer from the right circle inside the near post.
Late in the game, the Flames failed to take advantage of a power play. Garon smothered a shot with traffic in front as the penalty expired.
Klesla made it 3-1 with an empty-net goal in the final minute.
“It’s been a rough little stretch, but all teams go through adversity,” Boll said. “It’s good to get that win.”
NOTES: The Flames played the second of a three-game road trip. They lost 4-1 to the Wild on Monday. … The Blue Jackets are 9-8-1 at home. … Calgary had won four of five meetings between the teams and two straight in Columbus.