COLUMBUS, Ohio – As might be expected from a team four games into a 13-day, seven-contest road trip, the San Jose Sharks were late starters.
Thanks to goalie Antti Niemi, they made up for lost time.
Patrick Marleau scored from a sharp angle with 4:51 left to lift San Jose to a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.
“This wasn’t the plan by any means,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “The first period we weren’t alert, we didn’t have our legs underneath us and we weren’t very competitive.
“To come back was a nice thing. Our goaltender had a huge part in that.”
Niemi made 42 saves, including 28 in the final two periods. He was at his best late in the first, as Columbus threatened to turn it into a rout, and in the final five minutes while preserving the lead.
The Sharks have earned at least one point in 10 straight games (9-0-1).
Joe Pavelski dug the puck off the back boards and passed to Marleau, who flipped it at goalie Steve Mason close to the goal-line on the left wing. Pavelski helped distract Mason as the puck slipped into the net.
“It got in on the short side,” Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. “(Mason) was playing a heck of a hockey game and it just squeezed in.”
Marleau also had an assist while Pavelski had two assists as the Sharks rallied from a 2-0 deficit. The Blue Jackets had applied most of the pressure in the third before Marleau’s goal, outshooting the Sharks 16-9 in the period and 44-32 overall.
Kent Huskins and Kyle Wellwood also scored for the Sharks, who have won five straight.
The last four have come on the road. Rather than wilt on the lengthy trip, San Jose has strengthened its position in the West. The Sharks came into the night in fourth place.
“As (assistant coach) Trent Yawney said, ‘A win is a win right now.’ Beggars can’t be choosers and we’ll take it,” McLellan said. “Some areas that we are not happy with, but we will see what we can do at practice tomorrow and move on.”
Kristian Huselius and Grant Clitsome had first-period, power-play goals for the Blue Jackets, who had won three in a row.
The loss damaged Columbus’ playoff hopes. The Blue Jackets began the night four points out of eighth place in the West. Like the Sharks, they were also playing for the second straight night.
“It was a tough one,” Columbus captain Rick Nash said. “We had a great first and then sat back after that and lost on a tough goal.
“We had a lot of energy in the first. In the second period they seemed to take it to us and take over the game.”
They cut the lead to 2-1 about two minutes into the second when Huskins scored his first of the season—in his 45th game—with an otherwise innocent shot from the left point. Mason was screened by teammate Kris Russell, and the puck might have been tipped as it slowly made its way from the blue-line.
San Jose controlled play in the offensive zone before Logan Couture’s centring pass from the left of the net deflected off Ryane Clowe’s skate. The puck bounced to Wellwood near the right hash and he punched it in for his second of the season to tie it.
Before that, the Blue Jackets had all the jump.
Huselius, who earlier in the power play had given up the puck with a bad pass, scored his 12th on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle. The shot went through the legs of Huskins and Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger, who was providing traffic in front.
The Blue Jackets were 0-for-13 with a man advantage the last four games, yet they made it 2-for-2 on the power play with nine seconds left in the opening period. Clitsome’s hard slap shot from just outside the left dot beat Niemi on the glove side.
NOTES—With three weeks left until the NHL trade deadline, there were scouts from Vancouver, Colorado, Atlanta, Carolina, the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay and Detroit in attendance. … San Jose’s Devin Setoguchi had his six-game point streak end. … D Fedor Tyutin was on the ice for Columbus, 24 hours after he was crunched headfirst into the boards on a flagrant hit by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke. Cooke was suspended four games by the NHL for the hit. … The Blue Jackets had mustered two power-play goals in only one of their previous 53 games.