Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mason's maturity keeps it close

2-0 deficit a downer, but he kept his head

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CHRIS MASON has seen this movie before: his Winnipeg Jets' teammates have the ice tilted in their favour and set up a shooting gallery at the other end of the rink.

Meanwhile, the veteran Jet netminder goes long stretches without facing a single shot.

The Winnipeg Jets outshot the St. Louis Blues 42-16 Saturday afternoon, but fell behind 2-0 in the first, rallied to tie it in the second before losing in a shootout. And Mason, despite not being busy, was steady in a game that is as much a physical as mental challenge for a puck stopper.

"Games like this are really hard to play for a goalie," said head coach Claude Noel. "Not only that, but you give up six shots in the first, you're down 2-0 and you don't feel great about things. It's a really hard game and it's hard to focus. For me, a guy like Chris Mason, with his experience... this is a jewel of a game for him: tough to play, hard to stay focused, no rhythm, no nothing, and not a lot of shots. Every shot was crucial and his maturity for me... he's a battler... his maturity for me really takes hold."

Now there are some conspiracy theorists out there who may wonder if Mason played Saturday so the Jets could showcase him one final time before NHL's trading deadline -- he is an unrestricted free agent -- and his experience and numbers may be tasty to some potential suitors. Mason is now 7-6-1 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.

"I think we played great," said Mason. "We came back and they're a very good defensive team. I thought we did a great job, I thought we out-worked them tonight and it's disappointing not to get the win. We got a point and as long as we continue to get points, that's positive. You look at a game like that, I don't think there's anything negative to come out of it. We got a point and we're moving forward.

"We obviously feel really good, especially at home. We believe that we can do it in here and we're just trying to take care of business on the ice."

QUOTABLE: Here's Noel when asked what he might have said to his squad after falling behind 2-0 after the first: "We just had a short conversation. I didn't have to say too much with the guys. The guys are mature players, they've been there, they know what's going on. I didn't have to say too much. I certainly wasn't yelling at them. It was peaceful. I was blowing them kisses."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2012 B2

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