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Jackets ride Garon to more shootout success

by Brian Hunter /
Two seasons ago, the Edmonton Oilers benefitted tremendously from Mathieu Garon's prowess in the shootout.

On Monday night, their old teammate came back to thwart them in the penalty-shot tiebreaker.

Garon stopped three of four Edmonton attempts and Jakub Voracek scored the decisive goal in the fourth round as the Columbus Blue Jackets claimed a 3-2 victory at Nationwide Arena.

''Sometimes it's easier when you play two games in two or three nights,'' said Garon, who stopped 23 shots through regulation and overtime. ''It feels like you're getting in a groove a little bit more. That's how I felt today.''

Anton Stralman and Antoine Vermette scored power-play goals in regulation for the Jackets, who have won two straight via the shootout with Garon in net.

That's hardly a surprise, given the goaltender's startling statistics when a game goes beyond overtime: Garon is 18-4 for his career in the shootout, stopping 81.3 percent of opponents' attempts. He went a perfect 10-0 for the Oilers during the 2007-08 season, allowing just two goals on 32 shots.

Ales Hemsky temporarily kept Edmonton alive by beating Garon in the third round, answering a goal by Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin in Round 2. But Voracek immediately answered by ripping a shot over Nikolai Khabibulin's glove, and Garon denied Gilbert Brule to secure the second point for the Jackets.

"He's been good all year for us," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He's given us a chance to win every night. He’s played really well. We're really happy with his professionalism. He makes big saves at the right time. Our guys play really well in front of him all the time. All in all, when you get a goalie that will give you quality starts like this, it's going to be a huge factor for the season."

Hemsky and Lubomir Visnovsky scored power-play goals for the Oilers, who have lost four straight and are 2-9-1 in their last dozen games.

"We had a pretty good effort from everyone," defenseman Sheldon Souray said. "We had great goaltending tonight. If it weren't for our goaltending, we probably would not have been in that game in the third period. We had a couple of breakdowns. We got away lucky."

Visnovsky gave Edmonton a 2-1 lead 5:48 into the third when he one-timed a rebound after Garon stopped Souray's drive from the right point, kicking the puck nearly outside the circles, where Visnovsky was able to step into a blast.

Vermette forced overtime with 7:34 remaining when he redirected Tyutin's snap shot from the point with his back to the net.

"I think both teams had a pretty big game and it was a battle of the power plays and that was even, so a shootout, and Garon played great," Stralman said.

Following a scoreless first period, Columbus enjoyed a 14-4 shots advantage in the second but came out with just a 1-1 tie. Stralman converted a 5-on-3 for the Jackets at 7:08, firing a low slapper past Khabibulin off a feed from Kristian Huselius.

But the Oilers drew even when Hemsky beat Garon through a screen from the left circle, the shot going through the legs of Jackets defenseman Rostislav Klesla and Edmonton's Dustin Penner with 6:47 left.

"Penner was in front of me, and for some reason, I thought he was going to touch it, so I think that's why I opened my stick a little bit," Garon said. "I kind of cheated and couldn't see the puck."

Material from wire services and team online media was used in this report.

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