Blue Jackets 3, Panthers 0

The Columbus Blue Jackets have been waiting and waiting for

goalie Steve Mason to look remotely like the player he was last

season.

The wait ended Wednesday night.

Mason stopped 32 shots for his first shutout of the season, and

Jason Chimera scored for the third straight game to lead the Blue

Jackets past Florida, 3-0.

After winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie with a

league-best 10 shutouts, Mason was feeling the pressure.

“It’s been kind of weighing on me the last little while,” he

said. “Obviously, every goaltender likes to have a couple of goose

eggs throughout the year. I was having trouble getting the first

one but it’s nice to get it out of the way.”

The win provided a confidence boost for Mason, who came in with

a record of 9-8-5 and was giving up almost 3 1/2 goals a game. He

had lost all five shootouts, stopping barely half of the 1-on-1

shots he faced.

Derick Brassard ended a 14-game scoring drought with a late

goal.

“I was not playing bad,” said Brassard, who only played the

first 31 games last year before having season-ending shoulder

surgery. “I was just not playing like a great player, which is

what I want to be. For me, when you think about it, I missed 50

games last year. I’m pretty much still a rookie this year. I think

it’s just going to come with experience, where you go on the ice

just to be strong on pucks and make some plays.”

The Panthers lost their third in a row overall and fourth

straight on the road. Both teams came in having lost eight of their

last nine.

“We weren’t able to capitalize on our chances,” goalie Tomas

Vokoun said. “It’s been a problem for us lately.”

Late in a first period in which the Blue Jackets buzzed the net

continually, Chimera broke through. He collected the puck near the

halfboards in his own end and skated almost the length of the ice

before backhanding a shot Vokoun thought he trapped against his

chest. The puck slipped from his grasp, and Chimera punched it

between his leg pads.

It was the third time Chimera scored goals in three consecutive

games. He has never tallied in four straight.

The turning point of the game came midway through the third

period when Mason and the Blue Jackets withstood three consecutive

Florida power plays.

The Panthers also had 23 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage, but

didn’t come close to scoring.

“(Antoine) Vermette won a huge draw there on the 5 on 3,”

Chimera said. “We got the puck out right away, which kills 10 to

15 seconds. That’s huge. Guys were blocking shots, doing the things

necessary to keep it scoreless for the big guy back there.”

Soon after the Blue Jackets killed off the second penalty,

Brassard took a pass from Raffi Torres and skated to the left edge

of the net before lifting the puck over Vokoun’s right shoulder. It

was the first time Brassard had scored in more than a month.

Columbus also killed another later penalty.

Mason had given up 13 goals in the Blue Jackets’ three-game

losing skid.

“He looked like the same Mase as last year,” coach Ken

Hitchcock said. “He gave us a chance tonight. He and the

defensemen played very well tonight and that’s what we were looking

for.”

Samuel Pahlsson added an odd empty-netter with 1:28 left,

scoring unassisted while winning a center-ice faceoff. He chopped

at the puck, and it slid between the Florida defensemen and into

the net.

He said it was possible that the Florida faceoff man supplied

most of the momentum on the goal.

Asked if he would be calling home to brag about the goal he

laughed and said, “No. No. I wouldn’t do that.”

The Blue Jackets, the youngest team in the NHL with an average

age of 26 1/2, had been prevented from practicing for several weeks

because of a tight schedule. But Hitchcock had put them through

their paces the past two days, turning the workouts into a

refresher course on the fundamentals for the youngsters.

“We accomplished a lot the last two days in practice,” Mason

said. “Guys really put forth a great effort. It showed tonight. I

thought we looked really sharp, and we stuck to the game plan. That

was the biggest thing. A lot of credit goes out to the guys because

we played one heck of a game tonight.”

NOTES: The Blue Jackets activated F Derek Dorsett after he

missed nine games because of a concussion. … Florida came in 27th

in the NHL on the power play and went 0 for 3. … Anton Stralman,

who had the second assist on Brassard’s goal, set a career high

with his 13th helper. … R.J. Umberger picked up his 100th career

assist on Chimera’s goal.