DALLAS (AP) – Steve Mason, Rick Nash and the surging Columbus Blue Jackets have become road warriors.
Mason made 29 saves, Nash scored the go-ahead goal in the second period, and the Blue Jackets beat the slumping Dallas Stars 2-1 on Sunday, matching a club record with their fifth consecutive road win.
Matt Calvert also scored for Columbus, which improved to 5-0-2 in its last seven road games. The Jackets still must play catch-up to climb into a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but a road victory over a team ahead of them in the standings is another positive step.
“We’re coming into our own, competing hard and sticking to our system,” Mason said. “This is huge. This is a team ahead of us in the playoff race. We need as many points as we can get. It’s a conference rival, so to get the two points gets us closer to that eighth place.”
Before the current spell of road success, Columbus dropped four in a row on enemy ice, all against conference opponents.
“It’s our compete level,” coach Scott Arniel said. “We’re a real team. If we’re not going with everybody, we don’t have success. Our wins have come when everybody shows up for 60 minutes.”
Brad Richards notched his 24th goal and Kari Lehtonen stopped 37 shots for the Stars, who dropped to 2-6-1 in their last nine.
Nash gave Columbus a 2-1 advantage at 6:33 of the second, taking a pass from Jakub Voracek, skating in alone and sending a backhander past Lehtonen for his team-high 26th of the season and 15th of his career against Dallas.
“It was a great pass by Jake, and it was just kind of an old-school backhand up top,” said Nash, who has three goals in his last four games. “I didn’t even know it went in at first and I saw everyone raise their hands.”
Mason came up with a big save on a backhand rebound attempt by Steve Ott with over 7 minutes left, stretching his left pad to steer the shot aside.
“We’re taught in practice to never to give up on a puck no matter the situation, making the second-effort saves,” Mason said. “That translates into games.”
Ott shook his head after he was denied by Mason.
“I probably should have had that quick one there on my backhand, the guy made a great save,” Ott said.
The Stars went in front at 4:36 of the first period on Richards’ power-play goal, a sharp-angle attempt from the right boards that was more of a pass than a shot.
Dallas wasn’t ahead for long. Calvert tied it on a rebound a little more than a minute after Richards’ goal.
The Stars were fortunate to escape the first period in a tie after being outshot 18-6 and losing 17 of 23 faceoffs.
“We did a good job of quieting the crowd,” Arniel said. “Sometimes with these afternoon games, it’s whoever wakes up first, and I thought we were going right from the start.”
Stars defenseman Nicklas Grossman left in the first period with a groin injury. Grossman starts with Stephane Robidas on Dallas’ top defensive pair, and the Stars had to shuffle their defensemen to compensate for Grossman’s absence.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)