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Mason, Umberger lead Jackets past Sharks

by Brian Compton / NHL.com
The San Jose Sharks entered Nationwide Arena atop the NHL standings with 52 points, just 24 hours removed from cementing the best 30-game start in League history.

On Wednesday night, they brought out the best in the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Steve Mason stopped 47 of 48 shots and R.J. Umberger scored 2:55 into overtime as the Blue Jackets earned a dramatic 2-1 victory against the red-hot Sharks in front of a raucous crowd in Columbus.

"It was one of the best feelings of the year, so far," said Umberger, who scored his ninth of the season. "That's about as dramatic as it gets."

Of course, the game would never even have reached overtime if not for the phenomenal play of Mason. The rookie goaltender made 28 saves through the first 40 minutes and stopped 17 of 18 shots in the third period.

Evgeni Nabokov made 30 saves for the Sharks, and had a shutout going until Michael Peca erased a 1-0 deficit with 7:28 remaining in regulation. Devin Setoguchi broke a scoreless tie 3:41 into the third period.

"Both goaltenders were good, and our guy was great," said Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock, who celebrated his 57th birthday. "To beat teams like that, we're going to need our goaltender to be our best player -- and he was."

Despite being bombarded with one shot after another, Mason believes the disparity in that department may have actually aided his performance.

"Every time that you are getting a lot of shots like that, you don't really have a chance to get cold out there," Mason said. "I like getting a lot of shots. It keeps you sharp and the results show."

While San Jose's five-game road-winning streak was snapped, the Sharks did manage to gain at least one point for the 15th straight game. They head to Detroit for what should be a phenomenal showdown with the Red Wings on Thursday night.

"It's obviously a tough way to (lose)," Setoguchi said. "I thought for the most part, we were on them. We had chances, but their goalie came up big."

A total of four shots were recorded in overtime, and the Sharks had the first three. After Mason managed to stop them all, Umberger broke out on a 2-on-1 with Kristian Huselius, who carried the puck up the right wing and sent a pass left to Umberger for the game-winner.

"It's as clear a 2-on-1 as you can get in a game," Umberger said. "He just kind of drew the 'D' to him. We knew Nabokov comes out far. Once the pass came over to me, he was out of position and it was just basically an empty net. It was a great play by Huselius."

Setoguchi broke the scoreless tie when he managed to redirect Rob Blake's feed past Mason for his 16th goal of the season. Peca tied it less than nine minutes later, when he took a pass from rookie Jake Voracek and ripped a wrist shot past Nabokov to make it 1-1. It was Peca's second goal of the season.

"We've been just trying to prove to ourselves that we can win these close games," Peca said. "We're getting sick and tired of giving up third-period goals and losing hockey games. Today when they scored their first goal, we knew we were going to score to either tie or win the game. We weren't discouraged one bit."

 
 


With the victory, Columbus improved to 6-7 in one-goal games, while the Sharks fell to 12-4. Their 48 shots were the most allowed by the Blue Jackets this season.

"It's funny ... when you win some games and you come in to play against teams, they expect you to absolutely run over people," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "That's not the case. It's a hard League to win in and other teams are prepared for you."

With a two-game road trip looming, Mason is hoping the uplifting victory can get the Blue Jackets rolling. Columbus will visit Dallas on Thursday and Phoenix on Saturday.

"Obviously it was good for us to get the two big points in come from behind fashion," Mason said. "Going into the two road games, everybody should definitely be feeling good about themselves."
 
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.







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