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Huselius lifts Blue Jackets over Penguins in shootout

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- Antoine Vermette has never missed the

playoffs. The Columbus Blue Jackets have never made them.

Somebody's streak is about to end.

Kristian Huselius had a goal in regulation and the only shootout

goal and the Blue Jackets beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-3, on

Thursday night after blowing a three-goal lead in the third

period.

Vermette, who had an assist and his first goal since coming over

in a trade-deadline deal with Ottawa, said the game could serve

as a teaching moment to a team trying to figure out how to make

the postseason for the first time.

"Somehow, I like facing this situation," said Vermette, who made

the playoffs all four years with the Senators. "It sounds

weird, but good teams at this time have to show some (ability to

overcome) adversity like this. (It's) obviously not the way we

wanted it, when you're up 3-0. But when things aren't going our

way, you've got to remember these moments."

Steve Mason was victimized for three goals in a span of 3:25 of

the last period but stopped Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby and

Evgeni Malkin in the shootout.

Once the game reached the shootout, the rookie goalie might have

been the calmest soul on the ice.

"As long as we score first, I feel pretty confident," Mason

said. "It doesn't matter to me what the score is or what

happens in the game. My demeanor never changes out there. I

was calm throughout."

The game was played before 19,167, the largest announced crowd

ever to see a hockey game in Columbus.

"It was a great atmosphere out there," Crosby said. "That's the

type of game you expect this time of year. A lot of teams are

competing for points. The intensity is a little bit higher."

The points were important for both teams, who each came into the

game in sixth place in their respective divisions.

"Look who we beat in the last three games," Columbus coach Ken

Hitchcock said. "We beat Detroit, we beat Boston, we beat the

hottest team in the NHL. It's hard. Every game is hard. There

are no breathers. ... It's the way it is right now. You have to

find the energy and we need new people stepping up. We've got

to keep going and keep rolling."

Jason Williams also had a goal and an assist for the Blue

Jackets, who tied a franchise record for wins in a season with

their 35th. They've won three in a row and four of five.

Sergei Gonchar, Pascal Dupuis and Maxime Talbot scored for

Pittsburgh and Malkin and Crosby each had two assists for the

Penguins, who had a season-best seven-game winning streak end.

"Just from the talk on the bench and in the room, we knew we

didn't play well tonight," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

"After a few minutes in the third, we got (going). The first

goal came, we dump it in, retrieve the puck and 10 seconds

later, it's in the net. That just hit the point home that

that's how we need to play. We did it for 15 (minutes) and we

get a point and we get to move on."

Mason had 38 saves while setting a franchise record for wins by

a goalie with 28. A frontrunner to be the NHL's top rookie,

he's 28-16-3.

He stopped the first 30 shots he faced, but the Penguins, down

three goals, finally broke through midway through the third,

when Gonchar netted his fourth on a power play. Eighty seconds

later, the Blue Jackets' Jiri Novotny gave away the puck behind

his own net, with Malkin grabbing it and trying a wraparound.

The puck slid past Mason, with Dupuis collecting it and jamming

it in for his first goal since December 30.

Two minutes after that, Malkin dug the puck off the back wall

and tossed a blind pass behind him to Talbot for the tying goal.

In the overtime, Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz hit a crossbar before

Mason gloved his slap shot 1:26 in. Mason also made a terrific

blocker save on a blast by Letang.

"He made a big save on Tanger there in overtime," Crosby said.

"He made some nice saves in the shootout. It's no secret that

he's a great goalie. He played well again tonight."

In the shootout, Huselius, going third, slid the puck between

the leg pads of Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who

finished with 25 saves.

"I actually was thinking before I went out there I wanted to

shoot (right away) because (Williams) and (Rick Nash) tried to

deke him, and I saw he had really quick legs," Huselius said.

"He recovered fast. I just wanted to get in slowly and shoot it

quick."

Mason then stopped Malkin, touching off a loud roar from the

crowd - which included at least a couple thousand Penguins fans.

"It was a win that felt like a relief," Hitchcock said.

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