SAN JOSE It had all of the makings for a letdown.
The Sharks entered Thursdays home game against lowly Columbus coming off of two emotional wins; were playing their third game in four nights and second of a back-to-back against a well rested opponent; while a red-hot Washington Capitals club invades HP Pavilion on Saturday.
Goals by Ryane Clowe and Joe Thornton, coupled with 23 saves from Thomas Greiss in his first start in over a month, though, gave the suddenly surging Sharks a 2-1 victory. It was San Jose's third straight win, and the Sharks have points in 10 of their last 11 overall (7-1-3).
I thought it was a gutsy effort on our behalf. To come back and play three-in-four with a team thats sitting in your city waiting for you and theyre very fresh, I thought it was real good, McLellan said, referring to the Blue Jackets not having played since New Years Eve.
Thorntons second period marker gave the Sharks their first lead and was the difference. The play began when Patrick Marleau sent a snap shot towards the net where it made contact with Thorntons stick, which was in front of the pad of goalie Curtis Sanford. The puck popped into the air and Thornton batted it in at 4:44 for his eighth of the season.
After Columbus took an early advantage on a Vinnie Prospal marker at 2:13 of the first period, the Sharks tied it on a power play with Ryan Johansen off on a double minor for high sticking Dan Boyle in the face at 9:48.
San Jose went to work on the extended man advantage and was generally ineffective for the first three minutes, before Clowe knocked in a loose puck at 13:03.
It was bouncing around. I think Michal Handzus either tipped it or redirected it somehow. Even when I shot, it I didnt think it was in, Clowe said.
The goal was Clowes first in eight games and just his second in the last 12.
The hitting and, consequently, the nastiness picked up in the third period after a generally docile first two. It began when Douglas Murray leveled an off balance Mark Letestu along the boards with about 14 and a half minutes remaining.
A couple minutes later, a scrum ensued behind the Columbus net as Brent Burns and Jared Boll grappled with one another, as did Handzus and Marc Methot. The Blue Jackets Derek Mackenzie picked up the extra minor, though, but San Jose couldnt capitalize on the power play.
With 6:14 left, Derek Dorsett leveled Tommy Wingels with a blindside hit behind the Sharks net, and again San Jose went on the power play. Logan Couture and Marleau misfired on open one-timers, though, and Sanford stopped Thorntons rebound attempt of a wrist shot by Boyle.
It almost cost them. Columbus Jeff Carter had a great chance to tie the game with Sanford pulled for an extra attacker, staring at an open net in the faceoff circle. Boyle alertly dove in front of Carter's dangerous wrister, though, preserving the win.
Im just glad it hit me, Boyle said. It was one of those bang-bang plays, and I didnt see the replay, but everybody say it was probably on the way in. Just in the right place at the right time, I guess.
Boyle and the Blue Jackets Rick Nash had an awkward exchange earlier in the third. In the San Jose zone, the two were seen jawing at each other and appeared ready to drop the gloves. Boyle was puzzled even after the game.
Im confused, because at the end of the night he kind of apologized. So, I still dont know what happened, he said. He thought I wanted to go, he wanted to go, and obviously neither of us fights very often. Im not sure. Just got a little heated there for a second.
I was trying to think, am I going to do this? Its been awhile. With my luck this year I probably would have pulled something.
Columbus did not have a single power play all night, while the Sharks finished 1-for-5.
I dont know if they were trying to draw us in, since they had no power plays, Clowe said of the chippy third period. We did a good job of staying disciplined.
The Sharks didnt start the game well, surrendering seven of the first eight shots along with the goal to Prospal. Columbus nearly made it 2-0, but Greiss stopped Derek Brassard on a two-on-one rush six minutes into the game.
Greiss was playing for the first time since Dec. 3 vs. Florida.
He found a way to make some real good saves. We had four outnumbered rushes against in the first period alone, and then we cleaned that up after, McLellan said.
It was a conscious effort by San Jose to get better defensively after the poor start, according to Thornton.
I think early on with that goal from Prospal, the guys realized weve got to tighten up a little bit, and we did that, he said. Greisser did a good job swallowing pucks up and deflecting pucks away from him. After that first one, we just clamped down and played well defensively after that.
Greiss had a little trouble with his rebound control at times, but improved his record to 5-4-0.
It was a long time and it took me a little bit at the start to get my timing down and everything, but I got a lot of shots at the start and that made me feel better, he said.
Greiss was also thankful for the effort in front of him.
It was great, a couple of blocked shots, and some huge ones at the end. We were working hard all over the ice, so that was pretty good.
Odds and ends: Curtis Sanford finished with 37 saves, as the Sharks outshot Columbus, 39-24. Each team had 12 blocked shots. San Jose won the faceoff battle, 28-26. Joe Pavelski was 9-3 in the circle. Jason Demers assisted on both Sharks goals. Tommy Wingels, recalled from Worcester earlier in the day, played on a line with Michal Handzus and Andrew Murray. Torrey Mitchell was a healthy scratch, as were Frazer McLaren and Antero Niittymaki. Jim Vandermeer and Colin White remain on injured reserve. Brent Burns had a game-high six shots. Joe Thornton played in his 500th game as a Shark. The Sharks are 18-1-3 against the Blue Jackets all-time at HP Pavilion. After the game on Saturday, 17 of the next 23 games for the Sharks are on the road. This was the first of four games between the Sharks and Blue Jackets, with the next on Saturday, Jan. 14.