DALLAS – This time, the Columbus Blue Jackets didn’t waste a third-period lead.
Rick Nash scored twice, Steve Mason made 36 saves, and the Blue Jackets registered their first regulation road win of the season, 4-1 over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.
Antoine Vermette added a goal, and John Moore contributed two assists for the Blue Jackets, who had been 3-12-2 on the road. All three victories had come in overtime or a shootout.
Columbus had failed to win in regulation when leading after two periods in eight straight games, so protecting the lead in the final 20 minutes was a sign of progress.
“After all the things that have kind of backfired on us in the last few weeks, that was a great 20-man effort,” Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. “From getting an early lead to building on that lead, and then not giving up a whole lot at the end, it was a solid effort.”
Fedor Tyutin’s empty-net goal with two seconds left clinched the victory for the Jackets, who have an NHL-worst 25 points.
Columbus also had to kill two power plays in the final six minutes to maintain control.
“A lot of people have wondered if everybody cares on this team,” Mason said. “We put in a good effort. There have been a lot of hurdles to overcome, whether it’s bad breaks or bad performance. So it’s nice to get a win.”
Vernon Fiddler had a goal for Dallas, and Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 shots in his return from a 12-game absence while recovering from a groin injury.
Lehtonen said he took about half the game before he got into a rhythm.
“It was all right,” he said. “I was hoping that I would be a little more comfortable. The first 30 minutes, I was just trying to get used to playing again in game situations, but after that, the second half, I felt normal again, so that was good.”
Lehtonen said Mason was simply better.
“I made some good saves, but their guy just had a phenomenal game. That’s why it doesn’t feel that awesome right now,” Lehtonen said.
Dallas held a 37-29 shots advantage, but had too many attempts from distance.
Nash gave the Blue Jackets a fast start when he popped a loose puck past an out-of-position Lehtonen and into an open net at 3:50 of the first period.
Fiddler tied it at 8:57, striking off a scramble in front of the net after Mason fumbled the puck while making the initial stop.
Vermette sent a rebound past Lehtonen at 2:10 of the second to put Columbus in front 2-1.
Nash notched his team-high 12th goal on a snap shot from the slot at 6:09 of the third. Nash has 17 goals in 32 games against Dallas.
“It’s fun to win in a place like this against a team that’s tough to play against,” Nash said.
NOTES: Columbus D James Wisniewski was hit in the left ankle by a Dallas shot in the second period and didn’t return. “It looks like (Wisniewski) has a broken ankle,” Arniel said. … Dallas LW Brenden Morrow was knocked out of the game early in the third period by a knee injury and is day-to-day. … D Sheldon Souray (ankle), F Tomas Vincour (knee) and D Stephane Robidas (foot) sat out for the Stars. … G Curtis Sanford (hip, back), LW Kristian Huselius (lower body) and D Radek Martinek (concussion) missed the game for Columbus. … The Blue Jackets opened a stretch of five of six games on the road. … Rookie Richard Bachman was 5-2 while subbing for Lehtonen after veteran backup Andrew Raycroft went 2-8. Bachman became the backup when Raycroft was assigned to the Texas Stars of the AHL on Thursday after clearing NHL waivers.