Hockey

Blue Jackets best another Canadian squad

The Columbus Blue Jackets earned their third win against a Canadian outfit this week, scoring a goal in each period for a 3-1 win over the visiting Calgary Flames on Saturday night.

Defeat Calgary 3-1 after upending Edmonton, Montreal earlier in week

Members of any of Canada's six NHL teams are welcome in Columbus, Ohio, for the foreseeable future.

The Blue Jackets earned their third win against a Canadian outfit this week, scoring a goal in each period for a 3-1 win over the visiting Calgary Flames on Saturday night.

Jason Chimera, Derick Brassard and Manny Malhotra scored for Columbus, which defeated Edmonton Wednesday and Montreal on Friday after beating Vancouver earlier this season.

Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason of Oakville, Ont., stopped 22 of 23 shots for his third victory in as many NHL starts.

"The organization doesn't have a reputation of being a strong team, but I think we've changed that this year," Mason said. "And hopefully it continues."

Recalled from the minors on Nov. 4, he made 34 saves in Friday's 4-3 shootout win over the Canadiens and at this rate could give head coach Ken Hitchcock a nice problem when starting netminder Pascal Leclaire and backup Fredrik Norrena return from injuries.

Mason, who led Canada to a fourth straight gold medal at the world junior hockey championship in January, turned aside all six shots directed his way in the third period as Columbus built on a 2-1 lead after blowing a 3-2 advantage against Montreal with 41 seconds left in regulation.

"With the confidence comes being more comfortable on the ice," Mason said. "Hopefully that continues. Every day I'm feeling more comfortable on the ice, reading the speed of the game and all the plays. I'm having a lot of fun. I couldn't ask for more."

The Blue Jackets have won three in a row for the first time this season and moved into seventh place in the Western Conference with a 7-6-2 record.

They also earned their fifth victory over Calgary in the past six meetings and are 11-3-1 versus the Flames at Nationwide Arena.

"We're definitely evolving as a team and becoming more of a team, if that makes sense," Malhotra said. "We now have the ability to roll four lines competitively. Everybody can contribute. Our young guys are adding points and playing well. Our goaltending is standing on its head. Every aspect of our game is coming along nicely. It's all coming together."

Malhotra provided the insurance goal at 8:37 of the third on Columbus's first shot of the period, and then joined his teammates in protecting a two-goal lead to improve to 4-0-2 since losing three straight in regulation from Oct. 24-27.

Rookie goalie beaten

Rookie goalie Curtis McElhinney, given a rare start for the Flames, couldn't handle Malhotra's slapshot to the short side but gave his team a chance to win by stopping 18 of 20 shots in the first two periods and 25 overall.

Miikka Kiprusoff was given the night off by head coach Mike Keenan after playing every minute of Calgary's first 14 games this season.

Captain Jarome Iginla had the lone goal for the Flames (8-6-1), who were coming off a seven-goal performance against Nashville on Thursday.

He scored his ninth goal of the season and 16th in 29 career games against the Blue Jackets, a power-play marker at 1:05 of the second period to tie the game 1-1.

Brassard, the NHL rookie of the month for October, put Columbus ahead 2-1 through two periods. Defenceman Mike Commodore tossed a high pass that Brassard controlled in the neutral zone before splitting two defenders. All alone, he deked McElhinney before sliding the puck past him for his sixth goal.

"Give credit to Columbus. They have a good forecheck and they are a quick team," Iginla said. "We also have to take some of the blame because we didn't move it the way we can. And we weren't smart and didn't get skating like we can."

Firing blanks

Each team had numerous chances in the opening period, failing to score on three power plays apiece. Mason was sharp, stopping Todd Bertuzzi on a point-blank, one-on-one shot on one power play. At the other end, McElhinney smothered Brassard's quick shot off a rebound.

A Calgary giveaway led to the first score. Flames winger René Bourque was at the short boards when he inexplicably tried to pass across the ice in his own zone. Chimera easily intercepted it in the crease, and beat McElhinney between his leg pads.

"They capitalized on some errors that we made, and that was fundamentally the difference in the hockey game," Keenan said. "It was a tight game from both sides and chances to score were low. We made a couple of errors that gave them the opportunity to put the puck in the net, and they did that."

Former Flames left-winger Kristian Huselius, who signed with Columbus as an unrestricted free agent in the off-season, did not play after getting hit in the foot with a shot on Friday night. He had 25 goals and 66 points for Calgary last season.

With files from the Associated Press

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