David Savard and Cam Atkinson scored for Columbus, and the Sharks were unable to convert on an extended power play late in a 2-1 loss to the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night.
Sergei Bobrovsky, returning from injury, was the key to Columbus’ success. The Sharks had the better of the zone time, generating 71 shot attempts to the Blue Jackets’ 39, but scoring chances were at a premium. Bobrovsky made 36 saves, while he and his defenders didn’t allow many second or third opportunities.
A double-minor for high-sticking on Alexander Wennberg gave the Sharks a four-minute power play with just five minutes in regulation, but neither unit generated much of anything until a Marc-Edouard Vlasic snap shot was swallowed up by Bobrovsky with just over a minute to go in regulation.
Faceoffs were a struggle for the Sharks most of the night. At the end of the second period they had won just 32 percent of all draws (12-for-37), and ended the night just 23-for-54 (41 percent).
Columbus jumped out to 2-0 second period lead.
The Jackets opened the scoring in the first. After a rush up the ice, Savard got the puck at the top of the circle and fired it through traffic at 14:17.
The 1-0 lead stood for more than a period until Columbus’ red-hot power play struck for a goal. Jack Johnson backhanded a puck towards the crease, and it snuck through a few bodies to the stick of Atkinson on the other side. He deposited his seventh goal past Antti Niemi at 16:39.
The Blue Jackets entered Saturday’s game having scored six power play goals in their previous 13 chances. They finished the night 1-for-3.
The Sharks got back into the game late in the second on a great effort by Joe Pavelski, who slipped through Boone Jenner and roofed a shot past Bobrovsky at 19:05 for his third career goal in 12 games at Nationwide Arena.
San Jose outshot the Blue Jackets 16-10 in the third period, but Bobrovsky turned aside all of them.
Columbus won both games of the season series, and is 6-1-1 in its last eight games against San Jose. The Metropolitan Division bottom-dwellers had gone nine straight games between wins on Oct. 23 in San Jose and Friday night in Philadelphia.
After allowing just one first period goal in their first 12 games, the Sharks have allowed 10 in their last seven.
The Sharks had killed off 10 straight opponent power plays before Atkinson’s second period goal.
San Jose was 0-for-3 on the power play, and is 0-for-8 in its last three games.
Niemi was making his fourth straight start, and fell to 7-6-1 on the season and 5-5-0 in his career against the Blue Jackets with 26 saves on 28 shots.
Bobrovsky was playing for the first time since Oct. 26, missing the last eight games with a bad finger.
Adam Burish was scratched for the first time on Thursday in Tampa Bay, but returned on the fourth line in place of Tye McGinn.
San Jose will play its second back-to-back of the road trip on Sunday in Carolina. The Hurricanes lost in Boston on Saturday afternoon, 2-1.
The Sharks’ wrap up their trip on Tuesday in Buffalo, and return home to host Florida on Thursday.