By Jonathan Raber
PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Rookie Steve Mason isn't playing like a
first-year guy. Rather, he is quickly establishing himself as
one of the league's better goaltenders.
Mason finished with 24 saves in earning his second straight
shutout to help the Columbus Blue Jackets record a 2-0 victory
over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.
"He's been great all year," Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash said
of Mason. "He's been the backbone."
Defenseman Kris Russell scored a power-play goal and Nash
notched his team-leading 16th goal on an empty-netter and added
an assist for Columbus, which won for the first time in eight
tries on the road.
The 20-year-old Mason, who entered with a league-best 1.87
goals-against average, was perfect in this one. He made eight
saves in the first, 10 in the second and six in the third for
his fourth shutout in 19 games this season. He stopped 20 shots
during Saturday's 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
"Playing a lot helps, you get into a rhythm," said Mason, who
improved to 11-7-1 this season. "Shutouts are nice, obviously,
but in the end what we are looking for is wins right now."
Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock credited the performance of his
entire defensive unit for the holding down the Kings.
"Steve Mason was good, but our group has been playing well,"
Hitchcock said. "Our seven defensemen, plus Mason - we're
trying to make ourselves a very hard group to play against back
there. We're not the prettiest group and we're not the fanciest
group, but we kind of maul you a little bit. That's the way we
The Blue Jackets finally got on the board against the Kings
after having been outscored, 6-0, in two earlier meetings - most
recently a 3-0 loss last Monday.
Rookie backup goalie Jonathan Quick had 23 saves for the Kings,
who failed to record a goal for the sixth time this season.
"I don't think we played hard enough and consistently across the
board," Kings center Patrick O'Sullivan said.
Quick, who continues to impress since being called up from the
minors after Erik Ersberg went down with a groin injury, turned
in yet another solid performance in his fifth start. He was
coming off shutouts in two of his previous three outings.
"He's giving us a chance to win every game that he's played and
that's all you can ask for from a goaltender," Kings coach Terry
Murray said. "We have to score some goals for him. He's played
with a lot of energy and a lot of composure and he's giving us a
good look - and it's good to see that we have good young guys
like this in the organization."
Columbus broke a scoreless tie in the waning moments of the
second period with a rare man-advantage goal. It was just the
team's 16th tally in 160 power-play chances (10 percent), which
ranks last in the league.
Nash unleashed a pass from the right side through the mouth of
the goal that deflected off a defender and came to rest at the
foot of Russell, who finished with a backhander for his second
goal of the season with 84 seconds remaining in the second
period. The tally proved to be the game-winner.
"It seems like those are the kind of goals you need when you're
struggling to score against a team," Nash said. "That power
play has been our Achilles all year, so to sneak one in on the
power play was huge."
After Quick was pulled for an extra skater, Nash converted a
breakaway with 75 seconds remaining to account for the scoring.