COLUMBUS, Ohio – Rookie goalie Steve Mason found out how long 69 seconds can take.
Manny Malhotra tipped in a rebound with 1:09 left, making a winner of the prized goalie prospect in his NHL debut and leading the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 5-4 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night.
“At the stoppage of play I looked up and saw there was 1:09 on the board,” the 20-year-old Mason said. “That was probably the longest 1:09 of my life.”
Raffi Torres, playing against his teammates from last season, had a shot from the right wing that Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson blocked. Torres followed up by chipping a shot over Roloson while he was down in the crease. Malhotra then reached over to tip the puck into the net.
“Raffi got a great shot on net, which I thought was initially in, and I just scored on the rebound,” Malhotra said.
Mason, making his fourth professional start and first in the NHL, had 22 saves. He got the start because top goalie Pascal Leclaire is out with an ankle injury and backup Fredrik Norrena hurt his groin during the morning skate Wednesday.
“First game, hard circumstances – (he did) OK,” Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. “He didn’t know he was playing. He’s like a lot of our young guys – it’s on-the-job training right now.”
The teams combined for four goals in a four-minute span near the start of the third period. The Blue Jackets blew a 2-0 second-period lead, then recovered from a 4-2 deficit in the third.
Kristian Huselius, Derick Brassard, R.J. Umberger and Fredrik Modin also scored for Columbus. Mike Commodore, Jake Voracek, Rick Nash and Torres each had two assists.
Umberger hadn’t scored a goal in his first nine games, but now has four in the last three.
Andrew Cogliano, Ethan Moreau, Ales Hemsky and Kyle Brodziak had goals for the Oilers, who are in the midst of a season-high, seven-game road trip. Tom Gilbert chipped in with two assists.
“It’s a painful, painful lesson,” Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. “There’s a right way to play this game and a wrong way to play it and we got on the wrong side of it early and it looked like we were going to get away with it. But we didn’t.”
With the score tied 2-2 heading into the third period, the Oilers seemingly took command.
Hemsky made it 3-2 in the opening minute with a hard shot from the left wing. Less than a minute and a half later, Brodziak was alone in the crease and notched his first of the season off a pass from Marc-Antoine Pouliot.
Columbus climbed back with two goals within another minute and a half. Umberger jammed in a rebound before Modin tied it 4-4 on a shot through heavy congestion.
Then came the wild final minutes.
“That shows that we’re not quitting, and we’re sticking to it to the end,” Torres said.
MacTavish was upset with his team’s play.
“The thing that I said at the end of the second period was, ‘Let’s just go out there and have a good third period and not be sitting on a bunch of regret,”‘ he said. “And we’re sitting on a mountain of regret right now.”
Notes: Edmonton’s Ladislav Smid made a huge save early in the game when Roloson was out of position on Umberger’s shot. Soon after, Smid sustained a concussion and didn’t return. … The Blue Jackets are 3-2-1 at home. … Columbus F Jason Chimera was hit in the middle of the chest by a hard shot late in the game and immediately skated off to the dressing room. He was unhurt, however.