BLUE JACKETS NOTEBOOK Mason flashes form from his rookie season

October 10, 2010


The San Jose Sharks cracked Steve Mason's goaltender mask this weekend. The confidence he wore like armor emerged unscathed.

Mason made 33 saves last night to backstop the Blue Jackets to a 3-2 overtime win in the Ericsson Globe.

Opening the season against one of the NHL's most potent attacks, he registered a .921 save percentage in two games, allowing only one even-strength goal. He withstood a Sharks barrage last night that included eight power-play opportunities and a second-period Patrick Marleau shot that caught him in the throat protector.

There was a short delay, with the Jackets killing a penalty, that enabled Mason to recover and get a new mask.

"He got hit pretty good and I'm sure his bell got rung a bit," coach Scott Arniel said. "He wanted to catch his breath for a moment."

Mason was at his best -- and perhaps most fortunate -- in the third period as the Jackets were outshot 13-4 and the Sharks hit a pair of goal posts. He also made a spectacular point-blank stop on Dany Heatley with the score tied at 1.

"He was unbelievable," captain Rick Nash said. "That was the old Steve that we learned to love. Hopefully, that one hangs around because when he (plays like that), he's one of the best goalies."

Nash was one of several Jackets players and coaches referring to Mason's 2008-09 season, in which he won NHL Rookie of the Year honors. His second season, of course, was a humbling one, complete with questions about his confidence and fitness.

Neither has been an issue since he returned from the offseason.

Mason finished the preseason with a flourish and, save for a soft wrap-around in the opening minutes Friday, he opened the regular season with two strong performances.

"I've had a fresh start with everything," Mason said. "I had a really good summer, and I cleared my head over the few months I had off. I really looked forward to coming back to Columbus and playing hockey again."

Pahlsson excels

Checking center Sammy Pahlsson played arguably his best two games as a Jacket this weekend. His line, which includes R.J. Umberger and Ethan Moreau, helped neutralize the Joe Thornton line at even strength.

Playing in his native Sweden, Pahlsson led all players with six hits last night. His check on the Sharks' Heatley at the Jackets' blue line in overtime forced a turnover and started the rush that resulted in Moreau's OT winner.

"That's how I remember playing against him for a long time," Moreau said of Pahlsson. "That's why I was excited to play with him. . . . He has a lot of respect around the league, and every player knows what he can do at the top of his game.

Slap shots

Jackets forward Jared Boll missed the game because of a lower-back injury. . . . Center Derick Brassard had one shot in two games. . . . Neither game sold out, and last night's crowd of 9,537 fans was more than 4,300 under capacity.