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Mason, Jackets beat Senators 1-0

by John Kreiser
Steve Mason started the regular season in the minors. He and the Columbus Blue Jackets hope to finish it with the first playoff berth in franchise history.

Mason continues to do his part to get the Jackets into the postseason. He stopped all 18 shots he faced Friday night for his League-high seventh shutout as Columbus edged Ottawa 1-0, moving the Jackets into a four-way tie for fifth place in the frantic scramble for the last four playoff berths in the West -- a race in which seven teams are separated by two points.

"The most important thing for myself is getting us in a playoff position. And we did that tonight," Mason said. "Obviously, we just want to keep moving forward with it. Shutouts are nice to get on a personal note, but they don't really mean anything in the end."

Mason's 19-11-2 won-lost record belies his other stats. He leads the NHL in shutouts and goals-against average (1.98) and is fifth in save percentage (.928). Mason has allowed two or fewer goals in 19 of his past 27 starts.

"Steve Mason had an outstanding game," said fellow rookie Jakub Voracek, who redirected Michael Peca's shot into the net at 3:55 of the second period for the game's only goal. "He made a couple of big saves in the third period. It doesn't matter if it's 1-0 or 5-4; it's still two points for us."

Mason did his best work in the third period, shutting down the Senators on three consecutive power plays by stopping eight shots. On Ottawa's best chances, Mason stopped Antoine Vermette on a jam shot off a backdoor pass with 12 1/2 minutes left on the first power play, then gloved Brian Lee's laser from the high slot with 7:45 remaining.

"When we did get some decent chances, he made some big saves," Senators forward Dany Heatley said.

Mason earned the shutout despite taking a shot by Alexandre Picard in the knee with less than six minutes to play. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Sept. 23, 2008, causing him to start the season in the minor leagues. This time he appeared to favor his right knee, flexing it after the Blue Jackets cleared the puck when play resumed.


"I got hit in the knee," he said. "It just kind of completely skipped a pad and went on my knee. It didn't feel too good. My pads are pretty crappy right now. I'll be getting some new ones pretty soon, hopefully."

The new pads better come soon -- Mason has started 16 straight games for the Blue Jackets, winning 11 of them, and coach Ken Hitchcock looks like he'll ride his young goaltender as long as possible … including Saturday night against Dallas.

"Mase had to make three big saves in the third period," Hitchcock said. "He's OK. What are you going to say? He's a hockey player. You accept the fact that you have a hammer."

Ottawa's Alex Auld, playing for the first time since Jan. 6, had 24 saves. It wasn't enough to give the struggling Senators the win.

"Against that team you're not going to create a lot of scoring chances, but in the third we did have a couple of quality ones," Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburg said. "That's what it comes down to against a team like Columbus -- you need to score on your chances because you're not going to get many."

Flyers 6, Lightning 1 | Video

The Flyers ended an odd stretch in which they played four of five games in the state of Florida by dismantling the Lightning behind two third-period goals by Jeff Carter that moved him past Alex Ovechkin into the League lead.

Carter's goal at 7:59 of the third period made it 4-1, and after Scott Hartnell beat Mike Smith with a slap shot at 10:47, Carter got his 32nd of the season at 13:08.

"I thought our team worked hard tonight, and it's nice to see us capitalize," Flyers coach John Stevens said.

It was a tough game for the Lightning, which lost for the second consecutive night after three wins in a row. The Bolts had two goals disallowed by video review and saw Martin St. Louis shoot high on a third-period penalty shot while it was still a 3-1 game.

About two minutes later, Steven Stamkos' apparent goal was disallowed because of a high stick -- and less than a minute after that, Carter scored his first goal.

"I believe 100 percent it was (a goal)," Stamkos said. "It's a tough thing to swallow."

Mike Richards gave Philadelphia the lead 7:03 into the game. Tampa Bay's Vaclav Prospal tied it at 17:55 with Tampa Bay's lone power-play goal in nine chances. The Bolts thought they had gone ahead with 37.1 seconds left in the period, but after a video review, officials ruled that Mark Recchi had kicked the puck into the net.

The Lightning weren't happy with either video review ruling.

"They have to do better than that," Recchi said. "We're fighting for our playoff life and calls like that really hurt our hockey club. It's not right. I think they made some mistakes tonight."

Philadelphia took a 2-1 lead 8:05 into the second period when Randy Jones scored on the power play from the lower left circle off a pass from Richards, who then made it 3-1 when he scored at 14:41.

"The puck kind of followed me," said Richards, who had scored just once in his last 12 games. "I feel like I was getting the chances before, I just wasn't getting the results."

Oilers 3, Wild 1 | Video

Three nights after the worst home loss in franchise history, the Oilers bounced back with a solid effort to beat Minnesota and grab a share of the four-way tie for fifth place in the West.

Edmonton looked nothing like the team that was booed off the ice after a 10-2 loss to Buffalo on Tuesday, jumping on the Wild early -- both physically and on the scoreboard. Andrew Cogliano set up goals by Ales Hemsky and Ethan Moreau that gave the Oilers a 2-0 lead after one period, and Lubomir Visnovsky put his own power-play rebound into the net at the 3-minute mark of the second period to send Niklas Backstrom to the bench.

"It was a big game for us," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "That 10-2 game was hanging over our heads pretty substantially if we didn't win."

The Wild had plenty of chances but was only able to beat Dwayne Roloson once -- James Sheppard hammered a one-timer from the slot into the net 38 seconds into the final period. Minnesota dominated the final 20 minutes but wasn't able to score again.

"We knew they'd come out like this," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said.

Edmonton set a physical tone early when Steve Staios flattened Stephane Veilleux with an open-ice check a minute into the game.

"It's hard to be physical sometimes -- the opportunity isn’t there, and you don't want to run around and get yourself out of position," Staios said. "Tonight the opportunity was there and the team responded."

Hemsky banked the puck into the net off defenseman Brent Burns' skate and Moreau scored his 100th career goal with a slap shot into the top corner as the Oilers beat Backstrom for the first time in 11 career decisions.

The Wild missed several chances to score, including a second-period breakaway by defenseman Marek Zidlicky that was stopped by Roloson.

"We played hard," Lemaire said. "We had a breakaway and didn't score. (Owen) Nolan was alone against their goalie and didn't score. The got a goal off Burns' skate, the first one, that gave them momentum. Talk about breaks -- that's it."

Flames 3, Predators 1 | Video

Nashville shut down Calgary's big guns, but the Flames got scoring from some other sources as they completed a sweep of the four-game season series with the Predators. Fourth-liner Andre Roy got what proved to be the game-winner in the second period, and Matthew Lombardi and Adrian Aucoin also scored for Calgary.

Lombardi scored 7:23 into the second period by banging in Curtis Glencross' passout, and Roy made it 2-0 at 12:25 by finishing off Eric Nystrom's pass after Nystrom broke past All-Star defenseman Shea Weber.


SAVES: 28 | SHOTS: 29
GAA: 1.00 | Save %: .966

"I didn't even think shot one bit, I just knew we were on a two-on-one and once their 'D' went down, I just slid it over," Nystrom said. "Sometimes I kick myself for not shooting enough, but Roy had an open net and he did a good job finishing it."

J.P. Dumont tucked in his own rebound 7:57 into the third period to make it 2-1, and the Predators pressed for the tying goal shortly after when Cory Sarich was called for hooking. But Miikka Kiprusoff came up with five superb stops -- including a scrambling save on Ryan Jones, who appeared to have the open side only to see Kiprusoff scramble across and get the paddle of his stick on the puck.

"I just tried to turn around and find the puck and get it in the air because most goalies are going to be along the ground but he did a good job of taking away the bottom of the net, threw the paddle up in the air and got a stick on it," Jones said.

Chants of "Kipper! Kipper!" broke out as the penalty ended. Kiprusoff finished with 28 saves for his League-high 30th victory.

"Guys around here that have been playing with him a few years have come to know him that way and know he can make the big save," Lombardi said of the Flames' goaltender.
Aucoin gave the Flames some insurance at 12:30 when he half-flubbed a one-timer from the left circle during a two-man advantage, only to have the puck flutter into the top corner past Pekka Rinne's glove.
The Predators fell eight points out of the final playoff berth in the West.

"The first 30 minutes we were not very good at all," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "Then in the last 30 minutes I thought we were much better. We ran into some penalty trouble, had some great chances with 10 minutes to go. One power play they had three great saves by Kiprusoff. If we get it tied up there we probably leave here with a point."

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

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