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Mason impenetrable again, Blue Jackets roll without Nash

By Tim Hipps

PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- The absence of injured captain Rick Nash

did not deter rookie goaltender Steve Mason from blanking

another opponent.

Without the club's lone All-Star selection, Mason made 45 saves

as the Columbus Blue Jackets halted the Washington Capitals'

seven-game winning streak with a 3-0 victory on Friday.

Mason turned aside 18 shots in both the first and third periods

while making nine saves in the second en route to his

league-leading sixth shutout of the season.

"We were getting lots of shots, but we didn't have many that

were quality scoring chances. But we still need to put some

in," Washington rookie defenseman Karl Alzner said. "We were

talking about trying to get up high on (Mason). A lot of times

when you're shooting from so far out, it's hard to get a great

chance on a goalie like that."

Mason's performance was encouraging considering he had been

bothered by muscle spasms in his upper body prior to the game.

"I think the players expected him to play," Blue Jackets coach

Ken Hitchcock said. "The lift was his saves in the first

period. That was the lift we needed."

Defenseman Fedor Tyutin and Jared Boll each recorded a

power-play goal and an assist, R.J. Umberger also scored and

Manny Malhotra set up a pair of tallies in support of the

20-year-old Mason, who was named the NHL's rookie of the month

in both November and December.

"It's huge for us," said Mason, who stopped all 71 shots he

faced in two meetings with the Capitals this season.

"Obviously, with a lot of guys out of the lineup, it was a big

opportunity for other guys to step up. They did that. We had a

down first period, but the guys bounced back in the second and

the third."

Jose Theodore stopped 20 shots for the Capitals, who had won

nine contests in a row at home.

"It wasn't all Steve Mason, even though he was fabulous,"

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We got frustrated, and

when you get frustrated, you try to do it yourself and you

become individualistic and the game plan goes out the window."

Washington outshot Columbus, 45-23, overall - and by an 18-4

margin in the opening session - but could not solve Mason, who

has allowed two or fewer goals in 15 of his last 19 starts. He

has yielded only one even-strength tally in his past seven

games.

"We just had to have the self-confidence in everybody in this

room that we have the ability to get it done," Mason said. "We

can't be intimidated by them. They are a good team, but we

can't be thinking they're a better team or anything like that

because if we're playing our best, we can compete with anybody."

Mason felt his defensemen deserve a lot of credit for the

shutout.

"That's something we've been doing all year long," Mason said.

"Our defensemen, I don't think they get enough credit. They do

a great job in front of me. They make sure that the

opportunities they do get aren't the highest quality. When I do

make a save and they get a rebound, they make sure there's not

second opportunities."

Stationed in front of the net, Umberger gave Columbus a lead it

would not relinquish by wristing the puck past Theodore at 9:27

of the first after receiving a pass from rookie Jakub Voracek.

"When we got the first goal, we kind of lifted ourselves from

there," Hitchcock said.

Tyutin buried a one-timer from above the right faceoff circle

with 1:54 left in the second, converting a pass from Malhotra to

double the Blue Jackets' advantage.

Boll capped the scoring with a backhander off the rebound of

Tyutin's shot with 5:09 remaining in the third. Malhotra

notched his second assist of the game and seventh of the season

on the play.

"We scored on our chances, our power play came through for us

and our goalie was our best player," Hitchcock said.

The Capitals, who went 0-for-6 on the power play, failed to

score during a two-man advantage that lasted 40 seconds late in

the second session.

"I think their second goal at the end of the second (period) was

the straw that broke the camel's back," Boudreau said. "We were

having such a tough time to score one, and you go into the third

period and you know you have to score two to tie - it was pretty

frustrating. ... I guess those things happen when you're used to

winning and things are going your way."

Columbus had not visited the nation's capital since Opening

Night of the 2005-06 season, when Capitals superstar Alex

Ovechkin scored two goals in his NHL debut.

Ovechkin recorded 12 shots on goal, one shy of his season high.

"That's a pretty good ratio for myself," Mason said.

"(Ovechkin's) got a heck of a shot. Some of the shots, you just

kind of drop down and hope it hits you because it's coming

head-high and you have no idea where it's going."

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