NASHVILLE, Tenn. – One day soon Nashville Predators goaltender Chris Mason will once again be the backup. Meanwhile, he’s making the most of his time in the net.

Mason stopped 38 shots Saturday night in a 5-0 victory over the Boston Bruins that gave him his fourth shutout of the season, a career high.

He entered the game ranked second in the NHL in save percentage and ninth in goals-against average. The victory over Boston was his 18th consecutive start for the Predators, the second longest streak in the league.

But when Tomas Vokoun returns to health in the next couple of weeks, Mason will have to move over to make room in the net.

“I just love playing hockey,” Mason said. “I don’t worry about the numbers too much. If you have a bad game it just really consumes so much of your thoughts. I love the opportunity I have right now. I’m just trying to take advantage of it.”

Mason is happy with how he is playing. He doesn’t plan to worry about going back to the bench until it becomes an issue.

“People on our team and on other teams realize we have two guys who can play,” Mason said. “Vokoun is obviously one of the best goalies in the world. When a team has two guys who play goaltender that is a benefit.”

Predators coach Barry Trotz admits that he’ll have to do some juggling when Vokoun returns from hand surgery he had Nov. 27.

“We will do some rotating for a while and see where that goes,” Trotz said. “We will try to keep both of them going if we can.”

Paul Kariya, David Legwand and Jerred Smithson each scored and added an assist for Nashville. Shea Weber and Josef Vasicek also scored for the Predators, who are 8-1-1 in the second half of back-to-back games. They rebounded from a disappointing 4-1 loss at Dallas on Friday night.

Legwand opened the scoring when he shot a one-timer past Boston goalie Hannu Toivonen on a breakaway at 9:38 of the first period.

“We made a good effort of throwing pucks to the net,” Legwand said. “We had 25 shots in the game, but we have to start getting 30 to 35 a game. We have to create scoring chances.”

Weber gave the Predators a 2-0 lead in the first when he blasted a slap shot from the slot from just inside the blue line that beat Toivonen to his stick side at 16:36.

In the second period, Jordin Tootoo took a shot from the inside rim of the right circle that bounced off of Smithson’s leg and into the net at 10:53. Tootoo picked up two assists as the fourth line showed some offensive flair.

“Tootoo has been playing well the last few weeks,” Smithson said. “He comes to play every night. He gives you a lot of room out there. It is nice to see him get rewarded with some points.”

With 49 seconds left in the second period Kariya fired a slap shot from the left circle that went over Toivonen’s shoulder and into the top right corner of the net for a 4-0 Nashville lead.

In the third period Vasicek fired a slap shot from high in the slot that went above Toivonen’s stick at 3:09.

“I think if you ask Toivonen he is probably disappointed in his performance,” Boston coach Dave Lewis said. “It was just one of those things. He hasn’t had a lot of chances to get in the net.”

The Predators are 6-1 against Eastern Conference teams this season. Despite the score, Lewis thought his team had a solid performance.

“I thought we played a heck of a hockey game,” Lewis said. “I thought we played one of our better games of the year. The results weren’t there, but we worked hard from the start until the very end.”

B>Notes:P> Nashville’s Steve Sullivan skated in his 700th NHL game. … Dan Hamhuis skated in his 200th NHL game for Nashville. … Mason has appeared in 24 games this season, breaking his career high of 23 set during the 2005-2006 season. … Toivonen had dressed as the backup in the Boston’s last seven games.


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