Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason said he set a goal for himself before the year began, and though it seems a long shot to accomplish at this point, he’s going to work to get close.
He entered this season with 77 career victories and set seven wins shy of tying the franchise record of 84, held by Marc Denis. Mason’s focus was to get to 100 wins before the 2011-12 season ended, but in the short term, career win No. 85 was one to savor.
It did not come easy, either. The Sharks were a team longing for wins and held just a two-point lead atop the Pacific Division entering tonight’s game at Nationwide Arena, but they came out flat and got behind 4-0 before the first period ended. Despite trailing early, the Sharks fired 41 shots at Mason and he came away with a season-high 38 saves.
“They’re playing desperate hockey right now, especially with the position they’re in,” Mason said. “For us, it was a good game and hopefully it put a bit of a bump in their road.”
Mason responded honestly when asked what setting the wins record meant.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “Coming into the league as a young 20-year-old, there’s been a lot of ups and downs and this is a nice accomplishment along the way. It’s going to be tough to achieve (100 wins) and that’s disappointing, but I’ll try to keep taking these wins as they come and hopefully put them together more often.”
Playing a position in which confidence is so paramount, Mason said he has felt it coming on in recent games and a solid team game in front of him has certainly helped the cause.
“It comes with playing consecutive games and trying to find your groove,” Mason said. “I’m feeling really good out there right now and we’re just going to keep taking it day-by-day and keep working hard tomorrow.”
Dropping the gloves is not usually one of the items on R.J. Umberger’s check list before games, but he was not a fan of the way Sharks forward Ryane Clowe tried to get his team energized in the first period. After rookie Ryan Johansen laid a solid, clean check in the neutral zone, Clowe came in from the other side of the ice and tried to engage Johansen.
Though the traditional Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist and a fight) was not on his mind late in the opening period, Umberger’s first reaction was to settle the score with Tommy Wingels, who came to Clowe’s aid.
“(Johansen) made a good hit, and I didn’t like how their guy was in his face,” Umberger said. “He’s a young guy on our team and I just thought it was the time to send a message to their team that we’re going to stick up for each other.”
Umberger began tonight’s game with his 10th goal of the season at 4:55 of the first period, slamming home a rebound from Grant Clitsome’s shot. Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi couldn’t locate the loose puck, and with Umberger parked in his office, he made no mistake in scoring his first goal in four games. With an assist on Rick Nash’s team-leading 20th goal later in the period, Umberger secured his first multi-point outing since Feb. 11 at Minnesota.
HERE COME THE HATS!
|Jeff Carter |
The Sharks simply had no answer for the Blue Jackets power play tonight (3-for-7), and Jeff Carter had a big hand in that. He scored a pair of power-play goals tonight and added the hat trick goal at 1:26 of the third period – his second hat trick in the last 17 games and giving him 15 goals on the year.
Carter’s first tally of the night was a thing of beauty: Vinny Prospal operated on the half-wall and found Carter lurking the slot. He took two steps toward Niemi and ripped a shot inside the glove-side post for a 2-0 lead at 6:51 of the first - his first goal in six games.
“A couple gifts there, some easy tap-ins,” Carter said with a wry smile. “I’ll take them. We need them.”
He was complimentary of the play by Nash on his third goal – with Thomas Greiss out of position, Nash scooped up a loose puck and appeared to have an open target. Instead, he passed off to Carter who had an ever better look at the cage for the hat trick.
“(Nash) basically had a wide open net and he could have put it in himself,” Carter said. “But that shows the kind of guy and player that he is that he recognized that. It was nice of him.”
Carter said their last meeting with the Sharks – a 6-0 loss at HP Pavilion a few weeks ago – was discussed prior to the game and played a role in their inspired effort tonight.
“We mentioned it briefly before the game, and I think everyone knew what happened there the last time we played them,” Carter said. “We came out with a pretty solid effort and turned the tide.”