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Garon blanks Stars for Jackets' third straight

by Brian Hunter /
Don't look now, but Mathieu Garon and the Columbus Blue Jackets have a three-game winning streak.

Garon stopped all 26 shots he faced to record his 16th career shutout and Raffi Torres scored his 13th goal of the season as the Jackets returned home to Nationwide Arena after a couple of road victories and beat the Dallas Stars 2-0 on Sunday.

Antoine Vermette added a power-play goal into an empty net with 3.8 seconds remaining for Columbus, which climbed to within eight points of Los Angeles for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth.

''You just reach a stage where you get sick of losing, so you're going to have to play a certain way,'' Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. ''Every good team plays that way, it doesn't matter the system of play. The harder you check, the more chances you get, and we're checking hard. Everybody's checking hard.''

Garon, who has at least temporarily taken over the starting role from last season's Calder Trophy winner, Steve Mason, was also in net for wins in Edmonton and Calgary that allowed Columbus to snap a 13-game road losing streak.

Back at home and coming off his 100th career win Friday, Garon was steady throughout and spectacular when called upon. His best save came with 2:25 left in the third when Mike Modano went in on a breakaway. Garon did the splits and stopped Modano's shot with his right pad. Steve Ott's chance at the rebound was deflected over the net.

''I just wanted to be patient,'' Garon said. ''He's a skilled guy and when I saw the second guy [Ott] coming for the rebound I panicked a little bit, but I got lucky, got a stick on it.''

Earlier in the game, Garon got that same right pad over to the post in time to deny a Loui Eriksson breakaway.

''We knew we could play that way and now we're playing that way,'' he said. ''We're playing really good defensively, we get the goals when we need them and we can kill penalties.''

Marty Turco finished with 39 saves for Dallas, which remained four points out of a playoff spot.

''We played a good game against the Islanders and we're trying to get back on the right track … it's going back to consistency, you want to come in here and keep that going,'' forward James Neal said. ''We were struggling big-time before this. You kind of want to get out of the basement. It was a tough one tonight. We've got to keep crashing the net and putting pucks there, and good things will happen.''

They certainly did for Torres, who scored off a rush by the Jackets with 8:20 elapsed in the first period. Derick Brassard skated up the left side and sent a cross-ice pass to Torres, who beat Turco. Columbus is now 18-2-2 all-time when Torres scores a goal.

With the Stars pressing for the tie late, Garon stopped Modano and then R.J. Umberger drew a high-sticking penalty on Jamie Benn with 1:16 remaining. Turco was eventually pulled to create a 5-on-5 situation, but that left the net open for Vermette to salt away the victory.

''It's huge,'' Vermette said. ''That [first] game, when you're coming back home from a road trip, usually it's not an easy game to get the two points. I thought tonight we were buzzing, we had some good chances, we had good play defensively, especially from Mathieu there. He was really good in the net tonight, big factor for us.

''It's huge. We want to get something going. Obviously confidence is a big factor, and tonight it was nice to get three in a row. We're going back on the road again and hopefully we can keep going.''

Material from team broadcast media was used in this report.

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