Series (Game 1 of 2)

Tampa Bay leads 2-0

Game 1: Saturday, December 17th
Blue Jackets2
Game 2: Tuesday, January 24th
Blue Jackets2Final

Lightning 3

(14-16-2, 30 pts)

Blue Jackets 2

(9-19-4, 22 pts)

7:00 PM ET, December 17, 2011

Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

1 2 3 T
TB 2 1 03
CBJ 0 2 02

M. Garon (Lightning - G): Saves: 26, Save Pct.: .929

V. Prospal (Blue Jackets - C): Goals: 0, Assists: 2

S. Stamkos (Lightning - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

Lightning-Blue Jackets Preview


The Columbus Blue Jackets have seen their goaltending improve with Curtis Sanford replacing Steve Mason.

Sanford is outplaying his younger teammate in much the same way Mathieu Garon did during his time in Columbus.

Garon has been the Tampa Bay Lightning's regular starter lately and will return to Nationwide Arena for Saturday night's matchup against his former team.

League-worst Columbus (9-18-4) and Tampa Bay (13-16-2) have received subpar goaltending all season, with the Blue Jackets posting a 3.19 goals-against average and the Lightning at 3.32.

Mason, the 2009 Calder Trophy winner, has been the culprit for Columbus with his 3.46 GAA. The 32-year-old Sanford has a 2.47 GAA since making his first start Nov. 17, and he's started 13 of the Blue Jackets' last 14 games.

Garon, meanwhile, signed a two-year deal with the Lightning during the offseason after posting a lower GAA than Mason in each of his previous two seasons with Columbus.

With Dwayne Roloson struggling, Garon has seen the bulk of the action for Tampa Bay. Garon has started four of the last five games and replaced Roloson early in the second period of the other.

Garon has not been sharp with a 3.61 GAA in his last five games. He and the Lightning blew a two-goal lead in the third period Thursday in a 5-4 overtime win over Calgary.

"It's huge," Garon said. "If we had lost that game, I think it would have been hard for everybody."

Steven Stamkos scored his 19th goal 30 seconds into overtime as Tampa Bay won for the second time in its last nine. Stamkos has five points in his last two games.

"We're struggling to get wins, and you need to take them any way you get them," Stamkos said. "Hopefully this is the start of something good."

The Blue Jackets are 1-2-1 entering the finale of a five-game homestand after losing 2-1 to Los Angeles on Thursday.

"We wanted to gain a lot more points than we have in these five games," coach Scott Arniel said. "Against a Tampa Bay team, we're going to have to be good. They've had their struggles but it's still a team that can score goals."

Sanford made a career-high 39 saves Thursday as he was back in goal after Mason started Tuesday's 2-1 shootout win over Vancouver. The 41 shots allowed by the Blue Jackets against the Kings were a season high.

"How can we not be desperate in our predicament, where we are?" Arniel said. "Because we beat Vancouver the other night, we're going to take a night off?"

Jeff Carter has scored in four straight games for Columbus and hasn't had a longer such streak since a six-game run Feb. 8-March 3, 2010.

The Lightning have scored 14 goals over their last four games after totaling eight in their previous five.

"You can only get confidence by doing it, by actually getting the result," coach Guy Boucher said. "You can't get confidence by telling yourself you're confident."

The home team has won each of the last five matchups between Columbus and Tampa Bay.