Coming off one of their worst games in the last two months, the Columbus Blue Jackets were angry and hungry.
The San Jose Sharks paid the price.
Sergei Bobrovsky picked up his fourth career shutout – all in his last 15 games – and newcomer Marian Gaborik had a goal and an assist Tuesday night, leading the Blue Jackets to a 4-0 win over the Sharks.
The victory was vital for the Blue Jackets, still hoping to steal a playoff spot for only the second time in the franchise’s 12 seasons.
”The most important thing is we have to get the two points,” said Gaborik, acquired last week in a megadeal with the New York Rangers at the trade deadline. ”We scored four goals and Bob was great. The overall effort for the whole team was there tonight.”
It was not there for the Sharks, who lost their second straight after a seven-game winning streak.
”The building has nothing to do with it,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of his club’s second straight lopsided loss in Nationwide Arena. ”The results are the same. I’m just as mad this time as the last time.”
Columbus ran up a 6-2 home win on San Jose on Feb. 11.
”They spanked us last time here and now tonight,” captain Joe Thornton said. ”We’ve been going good, but this is kind of a step back. We’ve got to tighten up, get better.”
McLellan was most upset with his team’s effort.
”We skated in sand and, even worse, we had our heads in the sand, too,” McLellan said. ”That’s a bad combination. We had the intensity of an exhibition game – and it’s April. That’s sad.”
Matt Calvert, James Wisniewski and Ryan Johansen also scored for the Blue Jackets, who had lost their last two starts.
Bobrovsky didn’t have a shutout in his first 98 NHL appearances. He has put up a brick wall in front of the net since Columbus went on a late tear to rise from last in the league. He made 30 saves, including stopping Patrick Marleau’s point-blank wrister in the third period and Dan Boyle’s hard, power-play slap shot in the second.
”Bobby was good, but I’ve seen him play better,” said Columbus coach Todd Richards. ”As a group in front of him, we were pretty solid. That was a good 60 minutes tonight. It was all four lines, all six defensemen.”
The Blue Jackets seethed after playing poorly in a 3-0 loss to Minnesota on Sunday night.
”We had something to prove after getting shut out at home,” Johnson said. ”Our backs were against the wall. You’re going to come out with a real fire in your belly knowing you can’t afford to drop another one.”
The game was crucial for both teams, but particularly the Blue Jackets, who began the night in a tie for 10th in the West, four points behind eighth-place Detroit. San Jose came in fifth in the West with 47 points, but just seven points from falling out of the race.
The Blue Jackets have gotten points in 17 of their last 21 games (12-4-5).
Columbus had been manhandled in the second period 48 hours earlier by the Wild. This time it was the Blue Jackets who took charge. Up 1-0, they had 11 of the first 12 shots while scoring twice.
Wisniewski made it 2-0 just 3:09 in, taking a pass from defense partner Adrian Aucoin to blast a rising one-timer past Antti Niemi from the middle of the blue line.
Less than two minutes later, Gaborik, playing his second home game for the Blue Jackets, patiently set up Johansen to make it 3-0.
Gaborik was being guarded by two Sharks in the right circle when he slid a backhand pass to Johansen in the slot. He went down to one knee on the one-timer high into the net.
Late in the period, TJ Galiardi, trailing the play, rammed into Bobrovsky and flattened him. The goalie was attended to by a trainer before getting a standing ovation as he rose to his skates.
”It was kind of a cheap shot,” Calvert said.
Gaborik benefited from a perfect setup from Artem Anisimov, a former teammate with the Rangers, in the third period. Skating behind the Sharks defense, Gaborik took the pass, faked Niemi to the ice with a forehand and then tapped in the puck with a backhand.
Late in a long, first-period shift, Mark Letestu passed around the back boards to Cam Atkinson, whose wraparound attempt was deflected by the stick of Niemi. But Calvert was there to jam in his eighth goal.
San Jose’s Adam Burish scored with 5:21 left in the third with a blind swat at the puck from his knees. but the goal was instantly waved off because he was in the crease.
”We made some errors we don’t normally do and they took advantage,” Marleau said. ”Our game’s probably slipped a little bit, but it’s easily correctible. We’ll regroup and get ready to go again.”
NOTES: Columbus LW Vinny Prospal played in his 1,100th NHL game and D Jack Johnson in his 400th. … San Jose plays five of its last nine games at home, while just two of the Blue Jackets’ final eight are at Nationwide Arena.