COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ryan Johansen was a healthy scratch in the Columbus Blue Jackets' last game.
He might not be sitting out much more.
The 19-year-old rookie had his first two-goal effort, and Steve Mason made 35 saves to help the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets end a three-game losing skid with a 2-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night.
"If he starts to understand that if he does the right things game in and game out, shift in and shift out, he's a permanent member out there," Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said.
Johansen has scored the winning goal in all three of Columbus' victories (3-12-1).
"I came in with the mindset going into practice and going into pre-game skate today that I had to make a good rebound and play a great game," he said. "I definitely had a good focus coming into tonight's game. It's nice to be rewarded with a couple of goals."
Johansen, the fourth pick in the 2010 draft, was touch-and-go to even stick with the Blue Jackets this long. Columbus deliberated sending him back to juniors after nine games to avoid triggering his entry-level contract. But general manager Scott Howson kept him because of his strong start.
"Not that everybody else has been very good, but I want to make sure we're doing the right things for him," Arniel said. "I said when we kept him, this is about next year and five years from now and so on. He's got to make sure he's doing the right things all the time. That line was very good and scored big goals."
It was a new start of sorts for the Blue Jackets. It marked the first time this season that captain Rick Nash and their two big off-season acquisitions—centre Jeff Carter and defenceman James Wisniewski—played in the same game. Wisniewski was suspended for the first eight games because of a head shot in a pre-season game. Carter played the first five games before missing eight with a broken bone in his foot.
Carter has liked what he has seen from Johansen.
"I was out with him last game. He had a good attitude about (being benched)," Carter said. "He took it in stride. He worked hard before and after practice. He got his chance and made the most of it."
In addition, Mason looked like something resembling the Calder Trophy winner from three years ago instead of a goalie with one of the worst goals-against averages (3.88) in the NHL this season.
"We cut down on the high-grade scoring chances," Mason said. "That's what we needed to do. Obviously, we're going to give up some but to just keep them to a minimum is what we need from everybody here. It was a good game."
During pre-game introductions, Mason heard a mix of cheers and boos because of his erratic play in the Blue Jackets' NHL-worst 2-12-1 start. But he was strong throughout, making a big stop against Bryan Little late in the first period on a Winnipeg power play and blocking prime scoring chances by Blake Wheeler and Nik Antropov in the second.
Just 53 seconds in, Johansen carried the puck to the top of the right circle and unleashed a big slap shot that rocketed past Ondrej Pavelec high on the stick side.
Prospal's hard work to win a loose puck led to the Blue Jackets' 2-0 lead early in the third. He beat Dustin Byfuglien to the puck near the left corner and centred a pass just before being knocked to the ice by the defenceman. Johansen was parked in the slot and jammed the puck past Stuart and Pavelec.
"(Prospal) had great patience going around the defenceman, and put it to the net," Johansen said. "I was happy to get wood on it, and it squeezed by Pavelec there."
It was another difficult night for the Jets, who have lost five straight (0-3-2).
After Mark Stuart converted a cross-ice feed from Byfuglien with 3:45 left for a short-handed goal, Mason made several more big stops—including gloving a long desperation shot at the final buzzer.
"Our guys played OK, but we didn't play as smart as we need to play," said Winnipeg coach Claude Noel, formerly the head coach in Columbus. "We've got to be better at managing the game. It gets frustrating."
NOTES: In addition to activating Carter, the Blue Jackets placed backup G Curtis Sanford (groin)on the injured list. ... The Jets were 0 for 5 with the man advantage against the Blue Jackets, who are last in the NHL in penalty-killing (71.2 per cent). ... D Nikita Nikitin, acquired in a trade with St. Louis on Friday for D Kris Russell, earned an assist on Johansen's second goal.