Columbus Blue Jackets: Sitting Pretty For The Time Being
The lifeless Jackets barely registered a pulse, giving up three second-period goals in a 4-1 stomping. To make matters worse, the Jackets were playing host to division-leading San Jose next.
Ken Hitchcock's team, sitting at 24-23-5, was methodically falling behind the playoff race in the Western Conference. It didn't help that goaltender Dan LaCosta would be making his first career start in place of Steve Mason, who was out with mononucleosis.
Jason Williams scored less than two minutes into the game and Rick Nash added another in the first period, but the Blue Jackets couldn't muster any more offense until overtime, when Christian Backman netted the game-winner against Evgeni Nabokov.
The Jackets put the weight on LaCosta's shoulders, and he delivered with a stellar performance not only against the Sharks, but against the Avalanche three days later.
LaCosta stopped all 31 shots against Colorado, and Jason Williams scored his second goal in as many games, while Andrew Murray added two assists.
Three days later, with Mason back in goal, Detroit rolled into Columbus riding a six-game win steak. The standing-room only crowd was not disappointed as Mason put aside a bevy of shots in the final minutes, and Columbus escaped with a 3-2 victory.
Rookie Jakub Voracek had two helpers and Jason Williams, acquired in January, kept his goals streak alive with the game winner.
Winning over so-called "rival" Detroit kept the momentum going on the ride down to Hurricane territory. Carolina and Columbus held identical records, 27-23-5, but the Jackets were 7-3-1 against Eastern Conference opponents.
A home-and-away on consecutive nights couldn't deter the Jackets.
Kristian Huselius totaled three points and Mason was dominant once again in a 5-1 thrashing. The Blue Jackets' power play unit also came to life by adding two goals on the man advantage.
Monday night the Jackets welcome the Dallas Stars into Nationwide Arena. Dallas and Columbus both have 61 points on the year, but Dallas is ranked fifth in the playoff race while Columbus follows right behind.
A win over Dallas could propel the Jackets into fifth place in the West and behind division rival Chicago.
Dallas' offense can be potent.
In early February the Stars put a 10-spot on the scoreboard against the New York Rangers. But last game, Marty Turco didn't show up in a 6-2 loss against the Blackhawks.
Steve Mason will need his defense to step up in order to win his 22nd game of the season.
If Columbus lights the lamp first, and the accurate passing continues, Columbus could put their foot on the bottom half of the conference's throat with upcoming games against St. Louis and Toronto.
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