COLUMBUS, Ohio - After being shutout in the previous two games, rookie goalie Steve Mason made a rare early lead stand for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Mason made 20 saves for his third shutout in Columbus' 3-0 victory over Philadelphia on Saturday night, the Blue Jackets' first victory against the Flyers in franchise history. He improved to 10-7-1 and lowered his NHL-best GAA to 1.87.
Jan Hejda and Andrew Murray scored in the first period, and Manny Malhotra completed the scoring in the second. Columbus is 1-4-3 against Philadelphia.
The Blue Jackets were blanked by Phoenix and Los Angeles in their previous two outings and hadn't scored in 127 minutes, 46 seconds entering the game. The streak went another 3:22 into the first period before Hejda scored his second of the season.
"It was really nice (to be ahead), especially because I had been sitting on one-goal and two-goal games," Mason said. "To get the early lead gave me the confidence that it was going to be a good night."
The Blue Jackets took advantage of the travel-weary Flyers and an energized sellout crowd of 18,402 - the team's largest of the season - to take the early lead.
Philadelphia was delayed landing in Chicago on Friday and missed the morning skate before losing 5-1 to the Blackhawks on Friday night. Afterward, fog prevented the Flyers' plane from taking off and the team didn't arrive in Columbus until mid-afternoon Saturday.
Flyers defenceman Braydon Coburn felt the schedule might have been a factor in the team being shut out for the first time in 76 games, including the playoffs.
"It affects the guys in different ways, but I think, echoing what Coach (John) Stevens said, it's more mental than it is physical when you're faced with a little break in the routine like that," Coburn said.
Philadelphia wore down in the third period when it had just four shots. "They're a team that they usually wins the board battles when they're successful," Murray said. "We wanted to take it to them and hopefully win that and we were able to."
The Blue Jackets also created havoc in front of the goal as evidenced by Hejda's goal. Although it was unassisted, Derek Dorsett was instrumental on the play. After coming out of a scramble with the puck to the right of the goal his shot got behind goalie Antero Niittymaki, but Ossi Vaananen was there to clear it off the goal-line.
Unfortunately for Vaananen, the puck went straight to Hejda in the left circle and he quickly fired it into the back of the net.
"The goalie was laying down on the ice. I try every time to shoot it through traffic," Hejda said. "They've got a physical team so we tried to play a simple game in our zone."
Columbus has the worst power play in the league, but it converted its second chance at 18:08 for the 2-0 lead. Kris Russell took a pass from former Flyer R.J. Umberger in the left corner and skated around the net before centring to Murray on the opposite side for a one-timer.
"We can't make excuses right now," Stevens said. "We've got to regroup, we've got to tighten up, we've got to do the little things better. That includes staying out of the penalty box early in the game."
Malhotra had the lone goal in the second period. He took a cross-ice feed from Rick Nash and wristed a shot past Niittymaki from the right circle. The score could have been worse heading into the third. Murray hit the right post on a redirect from Umberger in the first and Kristian Huselius clanged one off the crossbar with 52 seconds left in the second.
"If we get a lead on teams we're really difficult to play against and teams don't come back on us," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "The players feel like if we have a lead going into the third period, Mason will not get scored on. That's the confidence we have in him right now."
Mason was at his best during a Flyers' power play midway through the second when he stopped Simon Gagne and Scott Hartnell as each was parked in the crease. Mason also made a point-blank pad save of Gagne early in the third.
Notes: Huselius was doubtful after the morning skate because of illness but he was in the lineup and assisted on the third goal. Forward Craig MacDonald was called up from Syracuse of the American Hockey League as insurance, but did not play. ... Malhotra won 15 of 17 faceoffs. ... Philadelphia defenceman Kimmo Timonen suffered a chip fracture of his right ankle Friday and did not play Saturday. He is expected to miss at least a week. ... Hartnell broke a big toe in the Chicago game, but played against the Blue Jackets. ... The Flyers are 0-2 on a six-game trip. They play Tuesday at Vancouver.