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Blue Jackets beat Canucks 2-1 in shootout

Vancouver Canucks' Henrik Sedin (33) hits Columbus Blue Jackets' Nikita Nikitin (6) in the face while chasing after the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011, in Columbus, Ohio. Vancouver Canucks' Henrik Sedin (33) hits Columbus Blue Jackets' Nikita Nikitin (6) in the face while chasing after the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Terry Gilliam)
By Rusty Miller
AP Sports Writer / December 13, 2011
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COLUMBUS, Ohio—James Wisniewski had the last of Columbus' three shootout goals and Steve Mason made several big stops in his first game after a 27-day benching to lead the Blue Jackets over the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 on Tuesday night.

Mason shut out the Canucks for two periods and finished with 30 saves. He stopped one of the two shooters he faced in the shootout while Mark Letestu, Rick Nash and Wisniewski all found the net against Roberto Luongo.

Jeff Carter had the Blue Jackets' power-play goal in the first period off assists from Wisniewski and Letestu.

Maxim Lapierre scored for the Canucks, who had won four in a row, nine of 10 and their last five on the road.

Columbus, with the worst record in the NHL, had lost its last two and five of seven.

Mason, making his first start since Nov. 15, stopped all but one of Vancouver's first 29 shots before appearing to injure his right leg with 6:46 left in regulation. There was some contact between Mason and the Canucks' Mason Raymond, with the goalie repeatedly slamming his glove against the ice in pain after the whistle blew.

Mason stayed down for several minutes before being helped off and replaced by Curtis Sanford, who had started a career-best 12 in a row before giving way to Mason on Tuesday night.

Only 3 minutes later, Mason returned to the ice and Sanford, who had made one save, went back to the bench. Mason, who later said he had cramping in his leg, seemed fine.

He was very good all night. In the second period, he made big stops on consecutive hard shots by Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis. Late in the period, Mason sprawled on the ice to smother a shot by Alexandre Burrows.

The Canucks nearly won in overtime when Chris Higgins' slap shot trickled through Mason's pads. All that kept it from crossing the goal line was rookie defenseman John Moore's right skate as he held off a forward trying to get at the loose puck.

In the shootout, Letestu scored on a forehand before Mason stopped Cody Hodgson. After Nash faked a backhand and scored high on the stick side past Luongo, Burrows buried a shot against Mason. Wisniewski improved to 3 of 6 in shootouts when he slipped the puck past Luongo's outstretched left leg for the winner.

It was a dramatic turnaround for Mason, benched after losing four of his last five starts while giving up 21 goals -- including ugly outings in which he gave up seven and six goals during lopsided defeats. The Blue Jackets had clearly lost faith in the former Calder Trophy winner and, at least for a while, played much better in front of Sanford, who won more times (three) in his next five starts than Mason had in his first 15.

Mason came in 3-12-1 with a 3.63 goals-against average and .875 save percentage. Sanford had won the No. 1 spot by going 5-4-3 with a 2.45 GAA and .909 save percentage, but he had given up 16 goals in his last four games.

Unable to get a puck past Mason for the first 48 minutes, the Canucks finally tied it at 1 when the checking line scored on the Blue Jackets' top line. Higgins beat Nash to a puck in the right corner and then skated with it behind the cage before tossing a quick pass to Lapierre for a jam shot at the left doorstep.

The Blue Jackets came in ranked last in the NHL with the man advantage, while the Canucks were fourth on the penalty kill. So the numbers were upset when Carter opened the scoring by backhanding in a power-play shot under the right leg of Luongo midway through the first period.

NOTES: Columbus came in 7-5-2 when scoring the first goal. ... Hamhuis was held scoreless. He needs one for 200 career points. ... Blue Jackets RW Derek Dorsett, who had trouble getting off the ice after injuring his left leg in a collision with Bruins goalie Tim Thomas on Saturday night, is not hurt as badly as first thought and could return later this week. ... Luongo made 29 saves.

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