COLUMBUS, Ohio – Rick Nash is the Columbus Blue Jackets’ best player, captain – and apparently the top marketing guy for the club.
Nash scored twice and rookie goaltender Steve Mason stopped 26 shots to lead Columbus to a 3-0 victory over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night, ending the Blue Jackets’ three-game home losing skid.
“Considering the fact that we’re at home, and the last couple of home games haven’t been too impressive – especially with a lot of tickets sold – it was big to give this night to our fans and show them a good product on the ice,” Nash said.
Raffi Torres added a goal, his first of the season.
Mason was sensational, making several sterling saves to pick up his second career shutout – and second in the past week. He stopped 15 shots in a 2-0 victory at Atlanta a week earlier.
“The guys made it really easy,” he said. “They were making sure that the lanes were open so I could see the shot from the point.”
The 20-year-old Mason has yet to put down roots in Columbus because, despite a 5-2-0-1 record, there are no guarantees he will stick with the big club. He was supposed to spend this year – his first as a professional – learning the ropes in the minors.
Instead, he’s making it almost impossible for coach Ken Hitchcock to send him down.
“He played great. If Mason continues to play like this, the way the standings are and how valuable points are, we’ve got to play him,” Hitchcock said. “We’ve got to play him quite a bit.”
Mason cooled off the hottest player in the NHL, Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin. Ovechkin’s 10-game points streak, which saw him pick up 11 goals and 11 assists, came to an end.
“We score goals – that’s the big difference when we play at home,” Ovechkin said. “The goalie played well tonight. Still, we had lots of chances to score goals, especially in the second period. I had a couple of chances. We just didn’t score.”
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said the Capitals didn’t do the work to shake Mason.
“When goalies are playing really good, they have that feel at this level that they’re not going to get scored on,” Boudreau said. “You’ve got to score a little grunge goal, we call them – get in front of him so he can’t see it and get a rebound. But we weren’t able to pay the price tonight.”
The Blue Jackets picked up the only goal of the opening period, seconds after coming out of a power play. Defenceman Marc Methot took a shot from the left point that struck Fredrik Modin’s skate and ricocheted to Torres, who pumped the puck past goaltender Brent Johnson.
Torres, acquired in a July trade with Edmonton for Gilbert Brule, had been pressing because he had yet to score for Columbus.
“If I keep on moving, I’ll keep getting my chances like that,” he said.
Johnson had long been tough on the Blue Jackets. He came into the game with a 9-1-2-0 career mark against Columbus with one shutout and a 1.95 goals-against average.
Nash made it 2-0, taking a drop pass from R.J. Umberger and hitting a hard wrister that clanged off the far post and into the net.
Mason was solid late in the period, stopping Ovechkin twice and Nicklas Backstrom once in a 20-second span.
Washington stepped up the pressure in the third and was on its fifth power play of the night when Nash added a short-handed goal. He came up with a loose puck at mid-ice, skated away from defenceman Sami Lepisto and then faked the forehand before chipping a backhand past Johnson for his 12th of the season.
Notes: Washington’s seven-game unbeaten streak against Columbus (6-0-1) was the Capitals’ longest against any team. … Umberger has points in his past four games (1-3-4). … The Capitals went 8-5-2 for their first winning November since 1999 and with their most wins in the month since getting nine in 1996. … The Blue Jackets had lost their past two games – both on tiebreaking goals with less than three minutes remaining.