Mason impenetrable again, Blue Jackets roll without Nash

By Tim Hipps
PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (Ticker) — The absence of injured captain Rick Nash
did not deter rookie goaltender Steve Mason from blanking
another opponent.

Without the club’s lone All-Star selection, Mason made 45 saves
as the Columbus Blue Jackets halted the Washington Capitals’
seven-game winning streak with a 3-0 victory on Friday.

Mason turned aside 18 shots in both the first and third periods
while making nine saves in the second en route to his
league-leading sixth shutout of the season.

“We were getting lots of shots, but we didn’t have many that
were quality scoring chances. But we still need to put some
in,” Washington rookie defenseman Karl Alzner said. “We were
talking about trying to get up high on (Mason). A lot of times
when you’re shooting from so far out, it’s hard to get a great
chance on a goalie like that.”

Mason’s performance was encouraging considering he had been
bothered by muscle spasms in his upper body prior to the game.

“I think the players expected him to play,” Blue Jackets coach
Ken Hitchcock said. “The lift was his saves in the first
period. That was the lift we needed.”

Defenseman Fedor Tyutin and Jared Boll each recorded a
power-play goal and an assist, R.J. Umberger also scored and
Manny Malhotra set up a pair of tallies in support of the
20-year-old Mason, who was named the NHL’s rookie of the month
in both November and December.

“It’s huge for us,” said Mason, who stopped all 71 shots he
faced in two meetings with the Capitals this season.
“Obviously, with a lot of guys out of the lineup, it was a big
opportunity for other guys to step up. They did that. We had a
down first period, but the guys bounced back in the second and
the third.”

Jose Theodore stopped 20 shots for the Capitals, who had won
nine contests in a row at home.

“It wasn’t all Steve Mason, even though he was fabulous,”
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We got frustrated, and
when you get frustrated, you try to do it yourself and you
become individualistic and the game plan goes out the window.”

Washington outshot Columbus, 45-23, overall – and by an 18-4
margin in the opening session – but could not solve Mason, who
has allowed two or fewer goals in 15 of his last 19 starts. He
has yielded only one even-strength tally in his past seven

“We just had to have the self-confidence in everybody in this
room that we have the ability to get it done,” Mason said. “We
can’t be intimidated by them. They are a good team, but we
can’t be thinking they’re a better team or anything like that
because if we’re playing our best, we can compete with anybody.”

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Mason felt his defensemen deserve a lot of credit for the

“That’s something we’ve been doing all year long,” Mason said.
“Our defensemen, I don’t think they get enough credit. They do
a great job in front of me. They make sure that the
opportunities they do get aren’t the highest quality. When I do
make a save and they get a rebound, they make sure there’s not
second opportunities.”

Stationed in front of the net, Umberger gave Columbus a lead it
would not relinquish by wristing the puck past Theodore at 9:27
of the first after receiving a pass from rookie Jakub Voracek.

“When we got the first goal, we kind of lifted ourselves from
there,” Hitchcock said.

Tyutin buried a one-timer from above the right faceoff circle
with 1:54 left in the second, converting a pass from Malhotra to
double the Blue Jackets’ advantage.

Boll capped the scoring with a backhander off the rebound of
Tyutin’s shot with 5:09 remaining in the third. Malhotra
notched his second assist of the game and seventh of the season
on the play.

“We scored on our chances, our power play came through for us
and our goalie was our best player,” Hitchcock said.

The Capitals, who went 0-for-6 on the power play, failed to
score during a two-man advantage that lasted 40 seconds late in
the second session.

“I think their second goal at the end of the second (period) was
the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Boudreau said. “We were
having such a tough time to score one, and you go into the third
period and you know you have to score two to tie – it was pretty
frustrating. … I guess those things happen when you’re used to
winning and things are going your way.”

Columbus had not visited the nation’s capital since Opening
Night of the 2005-06 season, when Capitals superstar Alex
Ovechkin scored two goals in his NHL debut.

Ovechkin recorded 12 shots on goal, one shy of his season high.

“That’s a pretty good ratio for myself,” Mason said.
“(Ovechkin’s) got a heck of a shot. Some of the shots, you just
kind of drop down and hope it hits you because it’s coming
head-high and you have no idea where it’s going.”