OTTAWA – For more than 53 minutes on Thursday night, it looked like Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason was starting to regain his award-winning form.
Deadlocked in a 1-1 duel with Ottawa counterpart Brian Elliott, Mason looked every bit like last season’s top rookie.
Then it all came apart.
Senators winger Nick Foligno beat Mason on a wraparound he should have had with just over six minutes to go in the third to give Ottawa a 2-1 win over Columbus.
“It came down to the last goal,” said Mason, who turned aside 34 shots. “It was a bad time to give up a bad goal.”
Jason Spezza added his second of the season to end a nine-game drought, while Elliot came up with a 32-save performance for Ottawa (13-7-3).
The Senators, 7-1-1 in their last nine at home, take to the road for a five-game swing starting Saturday night against the Boston Bruins.
“We’re trying to fine tune things here,” said Foligno. “We know on the road it has to be a simple game. I think the guys are looking forward to that challenge.”
Kristian Huselius scored the lone goal for Columbus (12-9-3).
After being named the league’s top rookie last season, Mason has struggled so far this campaign, going 8-6-3 with 3.50 goals-against average and a .889 save percentage.
“It’s a tough loss,” said Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock. “We had a lot of guys who played well, but we were the first team to crack. We let a goal in on the power play.”
The Blue Jackets head home with a 1-3-1 record on a their five-game road trip.
The Senators were without Mike Fisher, Chris Neil, Anton Volchenkov and Pascal Leclaire due to injury, but did have Alex Kovalev back in the lineup. The Russian missed the last three games following the death of his mother-in-law.
Kovalev mesmerized the 19,244 on hand at Scotiabank Place with his puck handling, again proving why he’s known as “l’artiste.”
Now all the Senators need is for some of those moves to result in goals. While Ottawa managed to create a number of chances against Columbus, they had difficulty beating Mason.
“I thought both goalies played well,” said Senators coach Cory Clouston. “It was a real good game. Both teams played hard and had a lot of chances.”
Columbus opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 17:41 of the first. Left all alone at the side of the net, Huselius buried a blind pass from R.J. Umberger past Elliott.
The Senators tied the game less than a minute later at 18:34 as Spezza took advantage of a screen by Foligno and beat Mason with a slapshot on a delayed penalty call.
“I feel like I want to produce more offensively,” Spezza said. “It’s a start for me and I felt better going in.”
After a scoreless second, the Senators came out firing in the third and were eventually rewarded.
With the Blue Jackets shorthanded, Foligno took a pass behind the net from Jesse Winchester, and squeezed a wraparound past Mason at 13:50.
Spezza enjoyed the winner all the more because Jan Hejda was sitting in the penalty box serving a hooking penalty.
Following last season’s game between the two teams Hejda was quick to criticize Spezza and the Senators. The comments remained in the back of Spezza’s mind.
“You take a lot of pride in things and I definitely didn’t forget,” Spezza said. “When we were struggling they weren’t shy to step on us and rub it in.”
Notes: The Senators were without Neil (knee, two weeks), Fisher (upper body, day-to-day), Donovan (knee, eight weeks), Leclaire (cheekbone, four weeks) Volchenkov (elbow, day-to-day). … RW Derek Dorsett (concussion, indefinite), LW Fredrik Modin (knee, indefinitely), F Andrew Murray (shoulder, indefinite) were scratched for Columbus. D Kris Russell and LW Tom Sestito were healthy scratches. … Steve Yzerman, executive director of Canada’s men’s Olympic hockey team, was on hand to watch the game. … Winchester picked up assists on both goals for his first-career two-point game. … Former Senator Antoine Vermette, traded to Columbus last season for Leclaire, played in his 400th NHL game.