COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) — After beating one of the Western
Conference’s elite teams over the weekend, Steve Mason and the
Columbus Blue Jackets turned the trick against the best the East
had to offer Tuesday.
The rookie goaltender made 35 saves for his NHL-leading ninth
shutout of the season as the Blue Jackets topped the Boston
Raffi Torres scored on the power play in the third period and
captain Rick Nash added an empty-net goal in the final minute to
help the Blue Jackets secure the win.
“It was an important game, but we were playing well,” Columbus
coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We needed to keep going, and
Boston’s a really good team. They play the game the right way.
I just felt like we were getting a very tough game and I was
getting a great evaluation of our team, individually and
collectively. The response we wanted from our team after the
first four minutes was right on the mark, and then we battled
Mason tied the franchise record for shutouts in a season set by
Pascal Leclaire in 2007-08.
“I felt pretty comfortable out there, but the team did a great
job in front of me,” Mason said. “It was a tight game right to
the end, but we were pretty sound defensively the whole game.
“Tonight was huge. We had a good effort against Detroit (an 8-2
win on Saturday), but we had to put that one behind us pretty
quickly. So for us to come off of that with a big win against
Boston, it was definitely big.”
He also matched a team mark with his 27th win, stopping five
shots in the first period, 15 in the second and 15 in the third.
Marc Denis also posted 27 victories in 2002-03.
Tim Thomas made 32 saves for the reeling Bruins, who still sit
atop the Eastern Conference standings despite having lost five
of their last six games (1-4-1).
“We’re creating stuff,” Boston’s Marc Savard said. “We had some
opportunities where we had to finish them. It comes down to
myself, the top goal-scorers and the play guys, we’ve got to put
the puck in the net. Give the kid (Mason) credit. He made some
good saves, but that’s no excuse. We’ve got to get something
behind him in the chances we had.”
With Boston turning up the pressure after a lackluster first
period, Torres provided all the scoring Columbus needed 6:50
into the third.
“It’s very exciting,” Torres said. “We are winning some big
games right now, and this is when you have to start winning.
Every game from here on out is a playoff game. It’s exciting to
see the guys getting excited.”
As Boston captain Zdeno Chara’s high-sticking penalty was about
to expire, Torres skated down the right wing and snapped a shot
past Thomas for his seventh goal of the season.
Columbus kept its hold on sixth place in the West, although
seven teams are within seven points of the Blue Jackets.
“Pressure has to be fun,” Hitchcock said of the playoff race.
“If you’re not having fun, you are not going to be able to
perform. We have to play hard, compete and have fun. We’re
having fun competing.”