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Mason stops Caps for sixth shutout

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Steve Mason defused a loaded question about the NHL All-Star game as easily as he did the high-powered Washington Capitals.

"I've got no problems with the goalies they selected," said Mason, the Columbus rookie selected to the YoungStars game, but left off the main Western Conference squad for the All-Star game in two weeks in Montreal.

Anaheim's Jean-Sebastien Giguere was selected to start in goal in fan voting, and Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom and injured Vancouver star Roberto Luongo were added as backups.

"They're there for a reason," said Mason, 14-9-1 with a 1.74 goals-against average. "Growing up, I looked up to a lot of them. It'll be good to be around them for a couple of days and soak up the experience."

The 20-year-old goalie was certainly a big star Friday night in Washington, making 45 saves - 12 on Alex Ovechkin - for his sixth shutout of the season in the injury-depleted Blue Jackets' 3-0 victory over the Capitals.

"It's huge for us," said Mason, questionable before the game because of upper-body muscle spasms, "Obviously, with a lot of guys out of the lineup it was a big opportunity for other guys to step up. They did that."

In other NHL games Friday night, it was San Jose 4, Edmonton 1; St. Louis 6, Vancouver 4; Buffalo 2, the New York Rangers 1 in a shootout; and Tampa Bay 4, Anaheim 3.

In Washington, R.J. Umberger, Fedor Tyutin and Jared Boll scored, and Manny Maholtra had two assists for the Blue Jackets, missing eight injured regulars, including scoring leaders Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius.

Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock acknowledged that Mason was "close" to being pulled from the starting assignment. With backup Pascal Leclaire on injured reserve with a sore ankle, that would have meant turning to Dan LaCosta, called up from Syracuse of the American Hockey League when Leclaire went down.

"Everybody knew our situation and I think we gained a lot of confidence by surviving the first period," Hitchcock said. "A lot of our young guys were in awe of what was going on and I think we were nervous and wondering what the heck was going to happen. We never even had one line that was a line a week ago."

The Blue Jackets ended Washington's winning streak at seven games and its home run at nine, dropping the Capitals to 18-2-1 at Verizon Center.

"It has to happen one day," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You get snakebitten. But good teams rebound from it and, hopefully, we're a good team."

The Blue Jackets clogged the passing lanes and limited Washington to low-percentage perimeter shots, but the Capitals still piled up a 45-23 shots advantage.

"That's something we've been doing all year long," Mason said. "Our defensemen, I don't think they get enough credit. They do a great job in front of me. They make sure that the opportunities they do get aren't the highest quality. When I do make a save and they get a rebound, they make sure there's not a second opportunity."

Mason also beat the Capitals 3-0 on Nov. 29 in Columbus.

At Edmonton, Alberta, Patrick Marleau had two goals, Devin Setoguchi added a goal and two assists and San Jose hit the 30-win mark in its 40th game.

Brad Staubitz also scored for the Sharks, 5-1-2 in their last eight and 30-5-5 overall. With the victory, San Jose also regained the NHL overall lead from Boston.

Denis Grebeshkov scored for the Oilers.

At Vancouver, British Columbia, Brad Boyes scored a power-play goal with 2:10 left for St. Louis with Vancouver newcomer Mats Sundin in the penalty box.

It was a rough ending to an unspectacular home debut for Sundin, who played his first game as a Canuck in Edmonton on Wednesday night. Sundin remained without a point or shot while playing 13:51, and also was on the ice for T.J. Oshie's late goal.

Brandon Crombeen, Patrick Berglund, Alex Steen and David Backes also scored for St. Louis. Willie Mitchell scored twice, and Daniel Sedin and Jannik Hansen added goals for Vancouver.

At Buffalo, N.Y., Ryan Miller made 43 saves and turned aside three shootout attempts, and Ales Kotalik had the lone goal in the tiebeaker for Buffalo.

Derek Roy scored in regulation to help Buffalo win its fourth straight game.

Miller ended the game by stopping former Buffalo star Chris Drury's attempt in the third round. Paul Mara scored in regulation for New York, 8-2 in shootouts.

At Anaheim, Calif., Ryan Malone scored twice, and Martin St. Louis had a goal and two assists for Tampa Bay.

Vinny Prospal also scored and Vincent Lecavalier had two assists for the Lightning, 7-12-6 since Rick Tocchet replaced Barry Melrose as coach on Nov. 14. Steven Stamkos, the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft, was scratched for the first time this season.

Andrew Ebbett, Steve Montador and Chris Pronger scored for Anaheim.

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