COLUMBUS, Ohio - Steve Mason stopped 18 shots for his NHL-leading seventh shutout of the season, making fellow rookie Jake Voracek's second-period goal stand up in a 1-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Friday night.
Mason, who didn't start the season with the Blue Jackets, is 19-11-2 with a league-best 1.98 goals-against average in 32 games. He's fifth in save percentage (.928), has allowed two or fewer goals in 19 of his past 27 starts - and has turned the sad-sack Blue Jackets into playoff contenders for the first time in their eight years.
Voracek redirected Michael Peca's shot from the point at 3:55 of the second period.
Mason was at his best in the third period when he weathered three Ottawa power plays and turned away eight shots.
He 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.
The best saves came on Ottawa's final flurry with a man advantage.
Alexandre Picard's hard shot was stopped by Mason with just under six minutes remaining. Mason stayed on the ice, wincing in pain before getting up and continuing.
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 favour his right knee, flexing it after the Blue Jackets cleared the puck when play resumed.
Then with just over five minutes left, the Senators' Dany Heatley had the puck and all the time in the world at the right doorstep after taking another backdoor pass. He waited and waited for the six-foot-four Mason to go down before trying to go high over Mason's shoulder, but Mason smothered the puck.
The 20-year-old Mason has started 16 straight games for the Blue Jackets, winning 10 of his last 15.
Five of Mason's seven shutouts have come against the Eastern Conference. He's 7-1-0 with a 0.74 goals-against average and .972 save percentage against the East.
Ottawa's Alex Auld, playing for the first time since Jan. 6, had 24 saves and kept the Senators - who had won their last two road games - in the game.
After a scoreless first period, Columbus got the only goal it would need. Just three seconds after a power play, Voracek notched his eighth when he redirected Peca's hard slap shot from the right point.
The Blue Jackets outshot the Senators 11-2 in the second period, the fewest shots by Ottawa and against Columbus in a game this season.
There was lots of pushing and shoving in the first two periods. At one point, five players were paired off after the Blue Jackets' R.J. Umberger shouldered Ottawa's Jason Smith into the boards. That led to a game misconduct for Senators enforcer Chris Neil after he squared off with Voracek.
Columbus was playing the second of a four-game homestand. After playing nine of 12 on the road, the Blue Jackets are playing 15 of their next 24 at home, where they are 15-7-1, including winning five of the last six and 10 of 12.
Notes: Columbus was 0-for-6 on the power play. Ottawa has killed off 24 of its last 25 penalties. ... Blue Jackets LW Fredrik Modin returned after missing a game because of a shoulder injury. ... The Senators were making their first trip to Columbus since Dec. 10, 2006, a 6-2 Blue Jackets win. ... The win guaranteed Columbus of a winning record in January, marking the first time in franchise history it has put together three straight winning months.