November 30, 1999
Oilers rock Blue Jackets
Derek Van Diest, Edmonton Sun
COLUMBUS - It was Faith and Family night at the Nationwide Arena Sunday afternoon, so perhaps it’s fitting to see the Columbus Blue Jackets’ belief in Steve Mason waning.
Mason gave up four suspect goals in a span of just under nine minutes allowing the Edmonton Oilers to post a 6-3 victory.
The win was the Oilers third of a four-game road trip and lifted them over the Montreal Canadiens into 28th place in the NHL overall standings.
“The poor kid, he’s an NHL goaltender for sure and I know that this organization relies on him,” sympathized Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “You hope he can battle through it and become a better person and goaltender for it and get his share of NHL wins.
“He’s a good, young player. You don’t become a Calder candidate without being able to do a good job. It’s a thankless position and as a competitor, you hope he can weather the storm and come out the other end feeling good.”
Ryan Jones, Chris VandeVelde, Ladislav Smid, Ben Eager, Sam Gagner and Eric Belanger scored for the Oilers, while Mark Letestu, Rick Nash and Derick Brassard countered for the Blue Jackets. Devan Dubnyk earned the win in goal, collecting his 19th victory of the season. Dubnyk has only one regulation loss this month, posting a 6-1-1 record in that span.
He had to be sharp early to keep the Blue Jackets from running away with the contest.
“We could have been down 3-0 after the first period,” Renney said. “But the fact of the matter is, it was only one, so we were able to regroup from that and talk about just being better.
“Both teams were pretty flat and I’m disappointed to include us in that quite honestly. I think we needed to be better than what we were (Sunday).”
The Oilers went into Sunday’s encounter having won two of the first three games of the trip.
They fell behind in the first period after Letestu lifted a rebound over Dubnyk, who finished the game with 29 saves.
In the second, Jones tied the contest as a point-shot from Ryan Whitney hit the winger on its way past Mason.
Later in the frame, Nash restored the Blue Jackets lead on a penalty shot after getting hauled down on a breakaway by Belanger.
From then on, it was all Oilers as they got to Mason, chasing the Blue Jackets goaltender.
VandeVelde beat him with a long shot to record his first NHL goal. Smid then blew a point-shot past Mason, before Eager was able to snap one through his legs.
Gagner rounded out the five-goal period on the power play, stepping out of the corner and firing a shot over Mason’s shoulder from a sharp angle.
“We’re playing well as a team right now and we’re playing with confidence,” said Jones, who finished with a game-high three points. “When you play with confidence, any squad in the league can be a little bit scary.
“(Sunday) it might have gotten a little bit away from us, but we got opportunistic and that’s all that matters.”
Mason was pulled between periods, having allowed five goals on 26 shots, in favour of Wetaskiwin product and former Camrose Kodiaks goaltender Allen York.
York stopped the bleeding, turning aside all 11 shots he faced in the third.
Brassard got one back for the Blue Jackets in the frame, but Belanger sealed the deal with an empty-netter.
The win lifted the Oilers out of the penultimate spot in the NHL standings, where they had been languishing for some time. They were in temporary possession of 27th place, but the New York Islanders win over the Florida Panthers later in the day knocked the Oilers back to 28th.
And while their current winning ways may take them out of the Russian sweepstakes for one of the two of the best players eligible for this summer’s NHL Entry Draft, it’s a direction the Oilers want to keep heading as the season wins down.
“It’s important for us, for our pride and for the city of Edmonton,” Jones said. “We’re going to continue to pick off the teams that are above us and wherever that leaves us when Game 82 finishes, then that’s where we have to be.”