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Predators' backup goalie too much for Jackets

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Even backup goalies look great against the
Columbus Blue Jackets these days.

Chris Mason made 35 saves to lead the Nashville Predators to a
4-2 victory over Columbus on Wednesday night, the Blue Jackets'
sixth loss in a row.

"We didn't show up to play for a period and a half and it cost
us the hockey game," Blue Jackets coach Gerard Gallant said. "We
played a great third period, but it's just one period -- we can't do
it for 60 minutes. That's been our problem all season long."

Jeremy Stevenson, Dan Hamhuis, David Legwand and Scott Hartnell
scored for the Predators, who snapped a five-game road losing skid.
Adam Hall had two assists.

"We had a couple of big saves from Chris Mason in the third,"
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "We had bang-bang goals in the
second period and Hartnell came up with the big goal at the end. It
was a key goal for us. They sort of had us on our heels, they were
coming hard, but we were able to get the big goal tonight when we
needed it."

Mason, starting while Tomas Vokoun got a night off, improved to
2-0-1 this year.

"We wanted this one going home," Mason said after the
Predators ended a two-game road trip. "We played them well."

It was another discouraging defeat for the Blue Jackets, who
have lost 10 of 11. Fans have become increasingly disenchanted with
Columbus president and general manager Doug MacLean, whose team has
the worst record in the NHL (5-17) and the fewest goals in the
league (40) by far.

Midway through the third period, a fan on the glass held up a
sign that read, "Trade MacLean."

Nikolai Zherdev and Manny Malhotra scored for Columbus.

"I'm not going to make excuses," Blue Jackets center Dan
Fritsche said. "The way we played, I think we at least deserved a
point out of this."

Marek Zidlicky's long pass from the defensive zone all the way
to Stevenson near the far blue line led to the first goal.
Stevenson took the pass, skated down the right wing while
defenseman Duvie Westcott struggled to catch up, and beat goalie
Pascal Leclaire high on the stick side at 15:01 of the opening
period.

A Predators power play ended 5 seconds before Stevenson's third
goal of the year.

Columbus tied it 25 seconds into the second period with a flurry
that began with Zherdev's centering pass from the back boards.
David Vyborny was stopped by Mason but the puck bounced out to
Sergei Fedorov, with Mason using his stick to deflect Fedorov's
shot. The puck ricocheted to Zherdev in the left circle and he had
almost an empty net for his fourth goal.

Less than 3 minutes later, the Predators took the lead for good
with the first of two goals in 47 seconds.

Hamhuis was posted just right of the net and hammered a pinpoint
cross-crease pass from Steve Sullivan for his second goal.

That goal had barely been announced when Columbus' Ben Simon and
Luke Richardson mishandled the puck in the defensive end, leading
to Legwand's third goal off assists from Martin Erat and Scottie
Upshall.

The Blue Jackets cut the lead to 3-2 at 11:03 of the third when
Malhotra scored on a rebound of Gilbert Brule's one-timer from the
point. Malhotra did not have a goal in his first 21 games this year
and had not scored in his last 52 games.

Hartnell scored with 1:22 left, swooping in on a break and
connecting on his third shot after Leclaire stopped the first two.

"I was just coming through the defense and I had a breakaway,"
Hartnell said. "One shot, two shots, three shots and it went off
Leclaire and in."

Game notes
Columbus D Adam Foote strained his groin in the first
period and did not return. ... Nashville lost the previous three
meetings, the past two in overtime. ... Nashville's Kimmo Timonen's
five-game points streak ended. ... Leclaire had a career-high 37
saves.