COLUMBUS, Ohio - Jason Williams scored with 6:55 to go to give the Columbus Blue Jackets a 3-2 victory over Detroit on Friday night, ending the Stanley Cup champion Red Wings' winning streak at six games.
Williams, the former Detroit player acquired in a trade with Atlanta on Jan. 15, scored in his third straight game to help the Blue Jackets win their third in a row - all over teams ahead of them in the Western Conference playoff race.
The game marked the return of Columbus rookie goalie Steve Mason, who had missed three games while battling mononucleosis. He stopped 32 shots, many while the Red Wings applied heavy pressure in the final minutes.
His best save might have come with 38 seconds left when he slid laterally with stacked pads to thwart Henrik Zetterberg's shot. In the final five seconds, Mason sealed off the corner of the net to deflect a desperate shot by Marian Hossa.
Raffi Torres and Jason Chimera also scored for Columbus, and Jake Voracek had two assists. Niklas Lidstrom and Mikael Samuelsson had tying goals for the Red Wings. Chris Osgood finished with 22 saves.
Williams' winner came when he got the puck from Jake Voracek near the blue-line and skated in from the right wing, beating Osgood inside the near post.
The Red Wings had tied it earlier in the period when Jiri Hudler dug the puck off the half boards and saucered a pass to Samuelsson in the high slot. He had time to settle the puck, waiting for defenceman Kris Russell to slide past on a block attempt, before ripping a shot that Mason could not glove. It was Samuelsson's 16th of the season and came at the 4:04 mark.
A crowd of 18,802 was the largest ever announced for a Columbus home game.
It was the Red Wings, perhaps a bit sluggish after beating Minnesota 4-2 a night earlier while Columbus had the night off, who made the first mistake.
Chris Chelios, the 47-year-old defenceman, tossed a blind pass from near the Detroit bench that went directly to Columbus centre Michael Peca. Peca skated down the left wing and dropped a pass to Torres who fired a high shot from the left dot that beat Osgood over his left shoulder. The goal, 2:45 in, was Torres' third of the season and immediately energized the crowd.
Mason looked as if he hadn't skipped a beat after his layoff.
He stopped 11 shots in the opening period, many coming in flurries. In the final minute, he blocked Brian Rafalski's backhander from the high slot through heavy congestion in front of the net.
There could have been even more traffic shielding Mason's view, but the Wings were without two of their wide-bodies, Tomas Holmstrom (hernia) and Johan Franzen (hand). Also sidelined were defencemen Brett Lebda (back spasms) and Brad Stuart (ribs), along with grind-line staple Darren McCarty (hernia).
The Wings tied it 3:25 into the second, taking advantage of a giveaway by Russell. He lost the puck to Pavel Datsyuk who fed Lidstrom as he was coming out of the penalty box, scoring five seconds after killing the penalty. Lidstrom slipped in behind Blue Jackets defenceman Mike Commodore, then tucked the puck under Mason's glove.
The Blue Jackets made it 2-1 midway through the period when Russell's slapshot resulted in a big rebound. From a scrum in the slot, Voracek was able to poke the puck to Chimera in the right circle. With Osgood down on the ice, Chimera's shot from the right doorstep appeared to go in off the heel of Osgood's glove and into the net.
Detroit swarmed in the last four minutes of the period, peppering Mason with shots. Hudler had him sprawled and down with just under two minutes left, but wasn't able to get the puck up over him as he was decked by Jan Hejda, who was called for interference.
Zetterberg, one of the triggermen on the NHL's top power play, shot high on a knee-on-the-ice one-timer. He later set up Daniel Cleary but Mason absorbed the shot.
Notes: At the same time Mason was activated, Columbus sent rookie G Dan LaCosta, who went 2-0-0 with a 1.54 goals-against average, down to Syracuse (AHL). ... Roughly three weeks before the trade deadline, scouts from Pittsburgh, Carolina, St. Louis and the New York Islanders watched the Wings and Blue Jackets. ... A comical moment took place 3:38 into the third when Cleary was bumped into the back of the goal cage and, as Mason went down on all fours, it slowly fell forward to almost imprison him.