Steve Mason had to make two comebacks to get his first win since Nov. 12.
Playing his first game since Nov. 15, Mason stopped 30 shots despite missing three minutes in the third period with cramps as the Columbus Blue Jackets topped the Canucks 2-1 in a shootout on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena.
Mason stopped 28 of Vancouver's first 29 shots before appearing to injure his right leg with 6:46 left in regulation. There was some contact between Mason and Vancouver's Mason Raymond, and Mason stayed down for several minutes before being helped off. Curtis Sanford, who had started a career-high 12 consecutive games before Tuesday, played three minutes before Mason returned; he later said he had cramping in his leg.
"It looked pretty serious, and then some of the players told me it was cramps," Jackets coach Scott Arniel said. "Usually if you can stand up, you can recover from that. When he went down the hallway, we knew there was a chance he would come back."
Mark Letestu opened the shootout by beating Roberto Luongo before Mason stopped Cody Hodgson. Rick Nash scored for the Jackets and Alexandre Burrows beat Mason with a backhand deke before James Wisniewski slid a low wrister past Luongo's left leg to win the game.
The Canucks saw their four-game winning streak end, though they now have points in 10 of 11 games (9-1-1).
"I think we've got to look at the positive things, we played better in the second half and [Luongo] made some big saves for us tonight and he got us the point," said Maxim Lapierre, who sent the game past regulation with a third-period goal.
"We've got to be better than that at the beginning of the game. We talked about that after the first and we played better in the second and third, but we need a better start next game."
It was a complete turnaround for Mason, who was benched in mid-November after losing four of his last five starts while surrendering 21 goals.
"The biggest thing for me is that he hasn't been the recipient of real good play in front of him earlier in the year," Arniel said of Mason. "Tonight we played so much better for him -- we didn't give up a lot of quality [chances] like we had early in the year, and the stops he did have to make, he looked very confident -- he looked very big out there."
Mason entered the game with a 3-12-1 record, a 3.63 goals-against average and save percentage of .875. Sanford went 5-4-3 in his 12 starts with a 2.45 GAA and .909 save percentage -- but had allowed 16 goals in his last four games.
Mason was happy to get back in the net -- and even more pleased with the outcome.
"It feels really good," the 2009 Calder Trophy winner said of his first win since Nov. 12. "I've been hard on myself -- there's probably nobody harder on himself than I am. I expect a lot better.
"I think in the last 3 1/2, four weeks I've learned -- I think I've matured in a lot of ways."
Jeff Carter gave the Jackets the lead with a power-play goal at 10:32 of the first period, backhanding a shot behind Luongo, who stopped the other 29 shots he faced. Mason preserved the lead with big stops on consecutive hard shots by Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis in the second period, then sprawled to smother a shot by Burrows late in the period.
Vancouver's checking line tied the game at 8:03 of the third period when Chris Higgins controlled the puck in the right corner and carried behind the net before dishing to Lapierre for a quick shot past Mason at the left post. The Canucks nearly won in overtime when Higgins' slap shot trickled through Mason's pads, but rookie defenseman John Moore held off a crashing forward while keeping the puck out of the net with his right skate.
Mason said he'll be ready to go whenever Arniel decides to play him again.
"I'm just going to take it day-by-day," he said. "I'm not sure when I'm going to play again, but whenever it is, I'll make sure that I'm ready."
The Canucks resume their five-game trip Thursday in Carolina before wrapping up with a Saturday night visit to Toronto.
"We said since the beginning of the year we've got to forget about the last game and focus on the next one," Lapierre said. "The next game is huge for us; the standings are so tight so we need those two points."
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said the outcome showed the parity in the League.
"In my mind, that's a much better team than their record indicates," Vigneault said. "You can say it many times, but there are no easy games in this League.
There might be a perception that we're going to step on the ice and win it very easily. You don't win games easily in this League. Tonight was another example."
Material from team media was used in this report.