COLUMBUS, Ohio – With the flick of his wrists, San Jose defenceman Dan Boyle kept San Jose’s streak alive in a physical game against Ken Hitchcock’s Blue Jackets.
Boyle roofed a wrist shot for the lone goal in a shootout, and Evgeni Nabokov stopped all three shooters to give the Sharks their sixth straight victory, 3-2 over Columbus on Wednesday night.
“The whole night was a challenge,” San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. “It wasn’t an overly pretty game to watch. They did a great job of playing a straight forward, hard-game and we tried to match it.”
Nabokov made 26 saves in regulation and overtime, then stopped attempts by Nikita Filatov, Anton Stralman and Rick Nash in the tiebreaker.
“I never have any plan because the guys are so skilled,” said Nabokov, who improved to 10-3-1. “The guys have two or three moves. I never even scout to be honest with you. I just try to play, make sure my gaps are fine.”
Joe Thornton scored and Dany Heatley added a power-play goal for San Jose. The Sharks have won eight of their last nine games.
Nash had a power-play goal and Jason Chimera also scored for the Blue Jackets. Stralman added two assists in his 100th NHL game, and Steve Mason made 36 saves.
Columbus, which twice rallied from one-goal deficits, has lost four of five and six of eight since starting the season 5-1, but Hitchcock sees some positives.
“The confidence is that we can play with all the good teams,” he said, referring to his team’s recent shootout loss to Pittsburgh, overtime win at Washington and the effort against the Sharks. “Now it’s whether we can motivate ourselves every night. That’s what the good teams do.”
In overtime, Mason gloved Patrick Marleau’s shot alone in the slot, and Thornton rung the puck off the crossbar with a minute left.
Tied 2-2 entering the third period, San Jose outshot Columbus 13-6 in the final frame. But the most dangerous shot was from the Blue Jackets’ Samuel Pahlsson, who hit the right post midway through. Then with two minutes left, Columbus’ Antoine Vermette nearly bull-rushed the puck over the line in a big scrum.
“It’s disappointing we didn’t get two points,” Nash said.
San Jose opened the scoring on Thornton’s shot from a sharp angle near the goal line at 6:32 of the first period. Seconds before the play, the six-foot-four, 235-pound Thornton was pushed and fell on top of Mason, bending the goalie’s head downward. The play seemed to daze Mason and he was slow to reposition himself. The goal was Thornton’s fourth.
Chimera tied it three minutes later, redirecting Fedor Tyutin’s shot from the left point after a nice combination of down-low and across-the-point passes by Columbus.
Heatley made it 2-1 at 4:17 of the second with his 10th of the season, scoring eight seconds into Tyutin’s tripping penalty. Heatley, acquired in a trade with Ottawa at the beginning of the season, had three goals and an assist in the first meeting between the clubs this season, the Sharks’ 6-3 win Oct. 8 in San Jose.
Boyle’s point shot hit Marleau in traffic screening Mason and trickled into the crease where Heatley jammed it home. Marleau stretched his points streak to nine games.
“They’re a team that collapses and waits for mistakes,” Heatley said. “We made a few mistakes here and there, but got a big power play and a great move by Boiler in the shootout and Nabby shut the door.”
Nash scored his 10th from a tight angle shot from the right goal line to make it 2-2 at 16:45.
NOTES: Sharks D Rob Blake was injured during the second period and did not return. Blue Jackets RW Mike Blunden was injured early in the game and didn’t come back. … The Blue Jackets played without regulars C Derick Brassard (hand), D Mike Commodore (charley horse) and LW Kristian Huselius (upper body). The Sharks were minus key forwards Joe Pavelski, Torrey Mitchell, Ryan Vesce and Devin Setoguchi, all out with lower-body injuries. … Columbus D Jan Hejda returned after missing three weeks because of a sprained knee.