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Moreau lifts Jackets to first win with OT goal

by Dave Lozo
STOCKHOLM -- Ethan Moreau felt he really had no choice but to score the game-winning goal for the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night.

Moreau was overwhelmed by guilt after taking a penalty in the third period against the San Jose Sharks that didn't lead to a goal, but left his team shorthanded for the seventh time. That's why his goal 1:56 into overtime that earned coach Scott Arniel his first NHL win felt so good.

"He made a comment afterward because of the penalty he took. He was pretty upset with his penalty," Arniel said following the Blue Jackets' 3-2 victory at Globe Arena that earned the Jackets a split in the 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere Series in Stockholm. "He said to me, 'I owe you one because of the penalty I took.' For him to answer like that was nice."

The goal was a result of a great play by Blue Jackets center Samuel Pahlsson to take the puck from Sharks winger Dany Heatley in the neutral zone. Pahlsson, a native of Ange, Sweden, chased down Heatley and drilled him into the boards near the Columbus blue line. Defenseman Fedor Tyutin fed a streaking Moreau, who scored his second of the season with a wrist shot that deflected off the catching glove of Sharks goaltender Antero Niittymaki and into the net.

"Big play, back-checking hard through the middle and creating a turnover," Arniel said. "Sammy Pahlsson had a tremendous weekend going head-to-head with Joe Thornton. He did a great job in the faceoff circle and playing against a guy who has him in size."

The Blue Jackets earned the split in these two games after losing in regulation to the Sharks 3-2 on Friday night.

Niittymaki, who was making his first start as a Shark after signing with the team in July, failed to impress after Antti Niemi earned the victory on Friday.

After Devin Setoguchi gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead 2:02 into the game with a power-play goal, Jackets star Rick Nash tied the score 1:11 later with a bad-angle shot that slipped through Niittymaki's pads. Nash was positioned along the goal line near the right post, but Niittymaki couldn't squeeze the shot.

"It was a bad goal that found a hole somewhere," said Niittymaki, who made 22 saves. "But I would do the same thing. I felt it hit my glove and I hoped it would've stayed there."

Niittymaki was even less pleased about Moreau's winner.

"I think I got out pretty good and I thought I got a good piece of it," Niittymaki said. "I was surprised it went in. I couldn't believe it. I'm kind of (upset) about that."

Niittymaki had no chance on a power-play goal by Kristian Huselius at 5:07 of the third period that gave the Jackets their first lead of the season. Nikita Filatov found Huselius with a cross-ice pass that the native of Osterhaninge, Sweden, wristed past a helpless Niittymaki to make it 2-1 Jackets. It was the second goal of the season for Huselius.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who will have a tough choice to make with his goaltenders on a night-to-night basis throughout this season, assessed his goaltender's debut.

"If you look at the goals, you want the first one back," McLellan said. "After that, in the first period when they pressured us like crazy, he was there for us. He didn't get a ton of work after that. The second one was a great shot. The third one he might like to have back. Ethan Moreau's coming in looking right at him. There's no one in his way. It's 1-on-1."

While Niittymaki couldn't come through at 1-on-1, the Sharks had a harder time coming through at 5-on-5 during the course of these two games. Thanks to 29 minor penalties -- 12 on Saturday -- there wasn't as much even-strength time as usual. But that doesn't diminish one bit the Jackets holding the high-powered Sharks to just one even-strength goal in the two games.

"I thought in these two games, we played really well," Huselius said. "I'm happy with taking this win here in the last game because I thought in the first game we had a chance to win it, too. We played against one of the best teams in the West, so we showed some good signs."

Sharks captain Joe Thornton scored his second goal of the season -- on the power play, naturally -- 1:58 after Huselius gave the Jackets the lead. But the Sharks' inability to score with the extra man over the final 1:56 of regulation proved costly when Moreau fired home the winner in overtime.

Jackets goaltender Steve Mason looked more like the player who won the Calder Trophy two seasons ago instead of the one who had a nightmare sophomore campaign. The 22-year-old was sharp after a rough start to Friday's game and was solid throughout Saturday's victory, making 33 saves.

The toughest stop came in the second period off a blast by Sharks sniper Patrick Marleau, who one-timed a rocket from about 15 feet away that hit Mason square in the mask and left him dazed for a few minutes. Mason remained in the game and didn't get rattled.

Is it too soon to say Mason is back? Not for Arniel.

"It's safe to say he's probably got his game back to where it was two years ago," Arniel said. "He's a real competitor and you can see his athleticism and his skill set. I said a long time ago when I got this job that a good coach looks at the goaltending first. We saw tonight what he's all about."

It's a confidence-boosting start for Arniel and the Jackets, who are showing they are ready to erase the disappointment of last season's 14th-place finish in the Western Conference. Moreau also enjoyed the chance to get his know his new teammates during this trip to Europe.

"We had a great time. Especially for me. It's a really good opportunity for me to get to know my teammates," said Moreau, who spent the last 11 seasons with the Edmonton Oilers. "These guys are great tour guides. We had a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the time here. But getting a win tonight was imperative."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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