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Garon and Blue Jackets blank Thrashers 3-0

by John Manasso

ATLANTA -- Mathieu Garon isn't one of those goaltenders who obsesses over his statistics. But he does know this: He has never had a run quite like this.

With his 25-save effort in Columbus' 3-0 win against Atlanta on Thursday night, Garon owns a 4-0-0 record and has a goals-against average of 0.87, a save percentage of .966 and a scoreless streak of 133 minutes and 54 seconds -- including back-to-back-shutouts.

Not bad for a 32-year-old journeyman who is with his fifth organization and has spent most of his nine NHL seasons as a backup.

Even on a night when Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel conceded that Garon "wasn't overly worked," the goalie still had to shut down a Thrashers team that entered with the League's second-highest goals-for and had yet to be shut out through its first 12 games.

"I don't think so," Garon said in response to whether he has ever put together a run like the current one. "I honestly don't keep track of my stats that much, but I don't think it ever happened, back-to-back shutouts. But, I mean, like I said it's all the team in front of me working real hard."

The shutout was his 18th in 244 career games and followed a 29-save performance in Tuesday's 3-0 home victory against Montreal.

He praised his teammates -- and with the Blue Jackets off to an 8-4-0 start, it's true that they deserve their share of credit.

Arniel, in his first season with the team and as an NHL coach, said that when the team entered the locker room after the game had ended, they immediately checked the score of Central Division rival St. Louis' game with San Jose--the Blues won 2-0 to stay on top of the division.

After missing the playoffs last season, the Jackets know they can't waste points.

"It's still early in the season, but, obviously, we want to be in the top eight," Garon said. "It doesn't really matter where you're at. I think we just found our game and we want to keep playing that way. If we keep doing that we're going to be successful down the road."

Arniel liked the way the team limited Atlanta's scoring chances, and mentioned defenseman Derek Dorsett's willingness to block shots. Dorsett twice got in the way of slap shots by Atlanta's hard-shooting Dustin Byfuglien -- and in both cases had to leave the ice.

"We did a great job in front of (Garon), limiting any kind of quality chances, and there wasn't many penalties," Arniel said. "It made for us as a group, we were able to roll four lines and six D and when you have a tired team that just flew in last night we tried to be real simple with our game and I thought we did a great job with it."

The Blue Jackets also did a nice job with their penalty-killing and staying out of the penalty box. The Thrashers, who entered with the League's seventh-best power play, had scored at least one power-play goal in eight straight games before going 0-for-1 in Wednesday's 4-3 win at Florida. Atlanta went 0-for-2 against the Blue Jackets.

The Jackets got the only goal they would need at 4:46 of the second period. Rick Nash pivoted below the right circle and, with his back turned to the net, sent a backhand pass through the goalmouth to Derick Brassard at the far post. Brassard roofed a shot over the outstretched right pad of goalie Ondrej Pavelec.

Atlanta had trouble all night controlling the Blue Jackets' top line of Nash, Brassard and Jakub Voracek and that trio helped to get Columbus' second goal at 10:14 of the third period. Defenseman Marc Methot's point shot eluded Pavelec's catching glove with the help of some traffic in front, as Nash and Brassard picked up assists - although Arniel said the Blue Jackets had a healthy debate in the locker room as to whether Voracek deflected the puck on that goal.

"It's been like that for probably the last five, six games," said the 23-year-old Brassard, the former No. 6 overall pick who has 5 goals and 3 assists this season. "We didn't start the season together. But now it's going really well. For me, as a center, to have two wingers like that - a big power forward who can do pretty much all around on the ice and a forechecker, a great play-maker who's really strong - my game's just going way better because they're really good all around on the ice."

R.J. Umberger added an empty-netter with 1:26 left.

The Thrashers lost for the first time in six games despite a 39-save effort by Pavelec.

"Individually, we're not winning enough battles," said Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay one night after his team allowed 55 shots at Florida. "As a team, you have to win battles, but it's up to each individual to start the process."

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