Scoring at least six goals for the third time in 48 games, San Jose powered past the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-0 Tuesday night at sold-out HP Pavilion.
The Sharks host the Dallas Stars Thursday before visiting the Phoenix Coyotes Saturday night. San Jose solidified its hold on the Pacific Division lead, moving to 62 points, four ahead of runner-up Los Angeles.
Antti Niemi recorded his 17th shut-out in a 140-game NHL career, posting 30 saves.
Both teams had not played for one week, but San Jose showed the superior play in the hectic first period. As much as the 18-11 edge in shots on net told the tale, the San Jose front-line players exhibited timely patience in taking a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
Patrick Marleau came into Tuesday’s game tied with Joe Pavelski for second among Sharks goal-scorers for the season.
With 7:53 gone in the first period, Marleau struck for his 18th goal of the year and 375th for his career. Marleau was in the low slot when teammate Justin Braun powered a low shot from the high slot toward Columbus goaltender Steve Mason. The netminder was able to stop the shot, but the puck dribbled toward the right post as Marleau skated into position. Marleau pulled the puck away from Mason, then calmly jabbed the puck over Mason’s left leg to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
Although Joe Thornton’s goal at 9:43 of the first was called an unassisted one, Andrew Desjardins helped to make Thornton’s ninth of the season a reality. As Blue Jacket defenseman Fedor Tyutin tried to control the puck along the right boards in the Columbus zone, a hard check by Desjardins left the puck rolling across the right circle. Thornton sped to the puck, then lined a shot on net that Mason kicked aside. Thornton slipped by defenseman Aaron Johnson before retrieving the rebound and directing a shot inside the left post past Mason.
Joe Pavelski, after giving Marleau almost one period to be second among San Jose goal-scorers by himself, posted his 18th of the season 3:48 into the second period.
Jacket Derek Mackenzie dropped his broken stick at 3:28 of the second. Mackenzie was in the low slot attempting to stop a Shark power play when Pavelski’s low shot from inside the blueline skimmed off Mackenzie’s leg and inside the left post for a 3-0 San Jose advantage.
A face-off win by Michal Handzus in the Columbus zone ignited a three-second scoring play for a 4-0 San Jose cushion.
Handzus skillfully pulled the face-off puck back to defenseman Douglas Murray before moving toward the net. Murray’s shot was blocked by Mason but the rebound went wide toward an unmarked Jamie McGinn. The forward snapped a 15-footer behind Mason for his 10th goal of the season, giving the Sharks four goal-scorers in double figures.
Murray’s 50th career assist was only part of the milestone numbers set by San Jose against Columbus. Murray was playing in is 400th career game, Brent Burns in 500 and Dan Boyle in 800.
Handzus and McGinn combined to net the Sharks’ fifth goal 1:54 into the third period.
As Jacket center Antoine Vermette skated with the puck across the Columbus crease, a trailing McGinn slapped at the puck and sent it off Mason. Handzus gained control of the rebound and put the puck past Mason for his fourth goal of the season.
Thornton finished with three points for the night when he scored at the end of a three-on-two rush at 10:54 of the third period.