What a luxury it is to have a solid backup goaltender who can give the starter a night off and post a shutout under difficult circumstances.
That is exactly what Chris Mason did Thursday night as he held off the Los Angeles Kings long enough for Evander Kane to score the winner in a mad goal-mouth scramble at 1:09 of the extra frame to give the Winnipeg Jets a 1-0 victory over the visiting Kings.
Playing without centers Brian Little and Jim Slater and defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, the Jets were unable to get much offense going throughout the game. Even with a two-man advantage early in the third period, they were unable to test LA goalie Jonathan Bernier wih many scoring oppurtunities and just getting the game to overtime and grabbing a point had to seem like a victory in itself.
If not for the play of Mason and another stingy effort from the Jets defense, that is all they would have gotten.
The Kings had a much longer 5 on 3 of their own in the second period but some strong penalty-killing by the likes of Ron Hainey and Johnny Oduya helped make things a little easier on Mason who also thwarted a number of point blank chances. The 30-year-old Hainsey in particular had a very strong night logging a season high 23 minutes of ice-time and playing what was easily his best game of the season. His assist on Kane’s winner was justice as he was one of the main reasons that his team was even able to get to overtime in the first place.
Playing for the first time tonight as a playoff team, the Jets pulled even with the New Jersey Devils and the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final three spots in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The club will have a chance to seperate themselves from those Maple Leafs when the two teams sqaure off at the MTS Centre on New Years Eve, and at the same time look to avenge an early season shootout loss to the Leafs at the ACC in October.