The one thing the Columbus Blue Jackets have done well this season is beat up on the East. Steve Mason and a determined group of penalty-killers helped them do it again Thursday night -- costing the Carolina Hurricanes two big points in the process.
Mason stopped 29 shots and the penalty-killers held Carolina scoreless in nine opportunities as the Jackets held off the Hurricanes 3-2 at the RBC Center on Saturday night, keeping the 'Canes two points shy of eighth place in the East. The Jackets' PK unit was perfect in nine tries and even scored a shorthanded goal.
"It was a wild one," Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said after Columbus improved to 10-2-1 against the Eastern Conference.
Derek MacKenzie scored twice and Samuel Pahlsson added a goal for Columbus, which snapped an 0-4-3 slide and stayed within shouting distance of the final playoff spot in the West.
"It's great. You really forget how it feels to win after seven losses in a row," Mason said.
Jeff Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu had goals, and Cam Ward made 25 saves as Carolina dropped its fourth straight.
"It's not Game 80," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "There's still time on the clock. We feel the urgency, so everyone understands exactly where we're at."
The Blue Jackets came in ranked 23rd in penalty-killing, but they shut down Carolina's power play -- which was also ranked 23rd.
"The penalty kills, especially the 5-on-3s, our guys did a great job of getting in shot lanes," Arniel said. "We had a pretty good idea of what they like to do, but at the end of the day, your best penalty killer is your goaltender, and Mason certainly stood tall for us."
Columbus took a 1-0 lead when Pahlsson converted Derek Dorsett's rebound for a shorthanded goal 4:44 into the game. MacKenzie beat Ward with a slapper 42 seconds into the second period to make it 2-0.
The Hurricanes spent much of the later part of the period on the power play, but they couldn't get a puck past Mason. The longest of Carolina's 5-on-3 power plays lasted 1:13 of the second period. The other two were 37 and 22 seconds. The Hurricanes also pulled Ward for an extra skater while on the power play in the waning seconds.
Carolina has scored on only three of its last 61 power plays and hasn't scored more than two goals in six games.
"The power play has got to find its way to get the puck in the net and get some confidence," Maurice said. "There are good power-play people out there and they're squeezing it. You can just see them hanging onto it a half second too long."
Skinner took a saucer pass from Erik Cole and sped past the defense before beating Mason to the glove side 9:16 into the third period to bring Carolina within 2-1.
Carolina's Jussi Jokinen missed a wide-open net in the final 1:30 before MacKenzie scored an empty-net insurance goal with 61 seconds remaining.
"Obviously the whole net was empty," Jokinen said. "You try to get it off your stick as quick as you can, but it was spinning so much and it just missed the net by a couple of inches. That was the difference in the game, and I need to put the puck in the net."
Ruutu then one-timed a shot through Mason's legs with 33.6 seconds left to make it a one-goal game again, but Columbus hung on for the win.
"It's a big monkey off our back," MacKenzie said of the slump-busting win.
The 'Canes have two days off before visiting Buffalo on Tuesday. The Sabres are two points ahead of Carolina.
"You've got to put pucks in the net. I think we had every chance imaginable and it's just not finding a way to the back of the net," said Staal, who finished with a game-high seven shots on goal. "I'm sure it's frustrating watching, but you have no idea being down on the ice and getting those looks and having them not drop."
Material from team media and wire services were used in this report.