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Mason, Blue Jackets shut out Flyers

By Dave Holstein

PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- It only took eight years but the

Columbus Blue Jackets have finally defeated every team in the

NHL.

Defenseman Jan Hejda and Andrew Murray scored first-period goals

and rookie goaltender Steve

Mason finished with 20 saves for his third career shutout as the

Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-0, on

Saturday.

"The players feel like if we have a lead going into the third

period, the other players feel like Mason will not get scored

on," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That's the confidence

we have right now with him."

"It was tough to stay sharp with the way our guys were playing

the majority of the game in their end," Mason said. "Obviously

the win is nice but you can't really sit on it. At the end of

the game, it is only one game."

The Flyers had been the only team that Columbus had yet to

defeat since joining the NHL in 2000. The Blue Jackets had been

0-4-3 before Saturday's win, which was also the first shutout

loss for the Flyers this season.

Mason turned aside five shots in the first period, 11 in the

second and four in the third to secure the shutout.

Hejda opened the scoring just 3:22 for Columbus early in the

first period. Derek Dorsett attempted a wraparound and, after

the puck was cleared out of the crease by defenseman Ossi

Vaananen, Hejda slipped a wrist shot past Antero Niittymaki.

"It was nice to get one through," Hejda said. "A lot of my

shots get blocked, so it was nice to finally get one through and

score."

It was only the second goal of the season for Hejda, who scored

24 games ago against Colorado on October 30.

The goal was the first for the Blue Jackets in over 6 1/2

periods. Their last goal was by captain Rick Nash with 2:46

left in a game in Dallas on December 18. Columbus was then shut

out in consecutive games by Phoenix and Los Angeles.

"If we get a lead on teams, we are really difficult to play

against," Hitchcock said. "Teams don't come back on us. We are

a frustrating team to play against because every player on this

team know how to check and how to check properly - and when we

do it, we are pretty effective."

Columbus doubled its advantage after Murray netted a power-play

tally with 1:52 remaining in the session. Defenseman Kris

Russell was behind the net and put the puck in front where

former Flyer R.J. Umberger put a shot on goal. Murray buried

the rebound to double the advantage.

"It was just one of those goals where you are around the net and

sometimes you get rewarded," Murray said. "Russell and Umberger

worked hard down low to get the puck in front and I was

fortunate enough to bury it."

Umberger was facing his former team for the first time since

joining Columbus via trade during the NHL draft on June 20.

Manny Malhotra extended the lead to 3-0 when he scored 7:29 into

the second period. Malhotra received a pass from Nash and

skated in alone, putting a wrist shot past the glove of

Niittymaki from the right slot.

"A great job by both Kristian (Huselius) and Rick (Nash),"

Malhotra said. "First of all, 'Juice' (Huselius) causing the

turnover in the neutral zone and Rick throwing a great pass to

lead me. I just went in and put it high, they did a great job

to set it up."

Due to ice in Chicago, the Flyers did not arrive in Columbus

until early afternoon and missed their morning skate for the

second day in a row.

"Travel is tough. Chicago is a good team, they have only lost

one game at home all year," Philadelphia coach John Stevens

said. "Tonight was a little better, but still not the level we

have been playing at. You're coming on the road here, teams are

ready. They are not going to take you lightly because of where

we are in the standings. We can't make excuses right now, we

have got to regroup and tighten up and do the little things

better."

"It affects different guys in different ways," defenseman

Braydon Coburn said. "It's more mental than it is physical when

you're faced with a little break in the routine like that."

Columbus improved to 6-1-1 against the Eastern Conference this

season.

Niittymaki finished with 30 saves for Philadelphia.

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