Rick Nash hat trick, tight defensive game helps Columbus Blue Jackets shutout Sharks 3-0

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Sunday, November 21, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash hat trick San Jose Sharks

Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash goal Dan Boyle San Jose Sharks

San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton tips shot on goal

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Mathieu Garon ROSITSLAV Klesla San Jose Sharks Torrey Mitchell

The San Jose Sharks were looking for a rebound game after two disheartening losses on the road, instead they ran into the buzzsaw that is the Columbus Blue Jackets. After knocking the St. Louis Blues off a 7-game winning streak, becoming the first road team to win at the Staples Center in 9 tries this season and snapping the Anaheim Ducks 5-game home winning streak, the Blue Jackets also ended the San Jose Sharks 5-game point streak at home with a 3-0 shutout win.

It was the first Columbus win in San Jose since 2004, and the first win in regulation at HP Pavilion in the franchise’s 10 year history. Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash scored his fifth career hat trick, and goaltender Mathieu Garon stopped all 35 shots he faced to vault Columbus into 5th place in the Western Conference. “I can’t remember ever leaving here happy,” Nash told the media. “We’re usually in a hurry to get out of here. We finally cracked them here.”

The Blue Jackets are a different team than the one that struggled to a 22-27-9 record last season and ended the coaching tenure of Ken Hitchcock. This year under 2009 AHL coach of the year Scott Arniel, the Blue Jackets are also a different team than the one that faced off against the San Jose Sharks to open the 2010-11 season in Sweden. With a veteran defense, an organized backcheck and solid goaltending, the BJ’s are capable of locking down a 1 or 2 goal lead. Averaging 4.2 goals a game over their last 5 contests, Columbus is also getting enough balanced offense to power past many of the top teams in the Western Conference.

As good as the opponents were, the home team struggled to gain any type of momentum or rhythm early in the game Saturday night. As the first major thunder/lightning storm of the season rolled into San Jose an hour before the drop of the puck, the play on the ice was disjointed, sloppy and uninspiring. “(There was) no growth tonight, none at all,” San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said after the game. “I don’t think that I have seen our team mishandle that many good passes, passes on the tape, break outs of the offensive zone, 3- on-2′s, 4-on-2 rushes… that is very disturbing.”

San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle agreed. “I think it was one of those games that as a player you don’t want to go through. It was one of those nights we were off from the outset, slow out of our own end, the puck is bouncing the wrong way, guys were falling down, passes were off,” Boyle said. “It was ugly.”

There were bodies falling and pucks hopping off sticks with regularity, but the Sharks compounded the problem with finesse plays on the perimeter. After Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash scored a power play goal 3:31 into the first period, Columbus established a strong physical presence in front of their own net. It was a physical presence that was difficult for the Sharks to crack.

That battle for position actually began earlier than that with defenseman Jan Hejda and Jamal Mayers fighting for a loose puck behind the Columbus net. Reaching around the defenseman, Hejda pinned Jamal’s arm and the Sharks forward responded with a hook that was called for the first penalty of the game. After Marleau spectacularly lost an edge in front of the net on a shorthanded breakaway, Nash answered on the other side of the ice with his 10th goal of the season (PP). Rick Nash took a long cross-ice feed across the slot, and snapped a shot from the left side that pinballed off Dan Boyle’s skate by Antero Niittymaki.

From that point on the Sharks would press, but they would run into a solid wall in the offensive zone. Time with the puck on the stick was minimal, and without establishing body or stick position the Sharks had trouble generating second and third chances on scoring opportunities. The Blue Jackets have a very underrated defense that includes big bodies Mike Commodore (6-foot-4, 233-pounds), who may or may not have seen fans waving money at him in the corner mocking his favorite photo, the inaugural Columbus first round draft pick (4th overall, 2000) 6-foot-3, 221-pound Rostislav Klesla, 6-foot-4, 237-pound Jan Hejda, veteran Russian blueliner Fedor Tyutin (6-foot-2, 214 pounds), as well as Marc Methot (6-foot-3, 222-pounds) and Anton Stralman.

Given the stiff defense and the nearly double blocked shots against, the Sharks had two options. They could drive the net hard and throw the kitchen sink at Mathieu Garon, or they could try to lock it down with a strong team defense and capitalize on a mistake or a power play to win the game. They did neither. “We were a very stubborn team for 2 periods, they back checked like crazy,” San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan told reporters after the game. “We were prepared to play an easy game, fancy at the blueline. By the time the third period came along and we figured it out, it was too late.”

In the first period, Pavelski and Clowe were blocked up high entering the zone, then angled off the play down low. Driving the net, Dany Heatley opted to pass instead of shoot and Thornton’s stick was broken up by Derek MacKenzie. When Thornton drove the net on a subsequent shift, he dropped a pass to Marleau and Columbus was able to break out of the zone. Marleau was in on the action late in the first as well, trying a no look pass to Heatley that was blocked at the front of the crease.

The best scoring chances for San Jose in the first period came from three of their youngest players: Devin Setoguchi, Logan Couture and Jason Demers. On the fourth line with Mayers and Nichol for the first time this season, Setoguchi posted up in front of the goal and deflected a slapshot just wide of the net. Couture created his chance slicing in from a hard angle and trying to stuff a shot short side. Defenseman Jason Demers created a turnover with the Blue Jackets breaking up ice. Alone on goal, he fired a high shot before being football checked by Fedor Tyutin. Goaltender Antero Niittymaki kept the game within reach with an excellent reaction save on a Brassard-Nash two-on-one, and on another point blank shot by Nikita Filatov.

Problems with officiating has unfortunately been a recurring theme on this blog of late, but referees Gord Dwyer and Ian Walsh may have called the best San Jose game of the season to date. The tenor of the play was set early, both were going to let the players play. A pair of Sharks tried to draw 3 calls with explosive falls to the ice, but the refs let them play. When Antero Niittymaki lost an edge at the side of the net and Rick Nash buried a wraparound for his second goal of the game, the play went to video review. The shot was in and out of the net before many players had time to react, but the referees got the call right. The only problem was the audio cut out on their explanation, leaving the sellout crowd of 17,562 fans at HP Pavilion to wonder what happened until they pointed to center ice. It was a playoff type game called by the officials, and San Jose did not adapt in time.

The bulk of the second period was bereft of a lot of quality scoring chances, but the physical play was overflowing. Defenseman Mike Commodore was credited for two hits on the same shift, leveling McGinn behind the net and then crunching McCarthy along the half wall. Jamie McGinn, on a makeshift line with Heatley and Mitchell, lowered the boom on defenseman Marc Methot as he played the puck behind the net. 5-on-5, Devin Segtoguchi again created the best scoring chances in the second period as he was moved around the lineup to spark other forward combinations. He got a stick on a pair of point shots for deflection opportunities, before being hammered by Rostislav Klesla. Say this for the Blue Jackets, they get their money’s worth out of legal checks.

Derek Brassard took a hooking call 18:49 into the second period. Historically the Blue Jackets are a team that can capitalize on a mistake for a goal. San Jose against Columbus is a team that can capitalize on a mistake, and ride the momentum for 2 or 3 goals. The top power play unit jumped on the man advantage opportunity at the end of the second period. Garon swallowed up shots in tight from Thornton and Heatley. Heatley missed a centering pass from behind the net, but the puck went to Joe Pavelski who tee’d up a point shot. Save Garon. A point shot by Boyle was blocked by Garon. Former Anaheim nemisis Sammy Pahlsson saw his stick shatter, but Marleau could not find an opening with a shot from the right faceoff circle. It was the turning point of the game, and Garon locked it down.

The Sharks battled back in the third period, but it was an uphill struggle. After Garon allowed a rebound to the far side, Heatley had an open net in front of him before R.J. Umberger chopped the stick blade from his shaft. Umberger was given 2 minutes for slashing, but a Joe Pavelski tripping call 33 seconds later negated the man advantage. Room to maneuver in the offensive and neutral zones was tight. Mitchell was planted into the ice by enforcer Jared Boll trying to set up for a shot. Clowe knocked Jared down on the same shift, but later in the third he dropped the gloves with Boll for his 5th fight of the season. Clowe played the role of Manny Pacquiao to Boll’s Antonio Margarito, battering him with hammerfists and uppercuts.

Devin Setoguchi was the offensive player of the game in the first two periods, in the third he drew a tripping penalty on Klesla then deflected a Clowe shot off the crossbar on the PP. San Jose started driving the net hard with regularity at the 50 minute mark, something that needed to happen at the 0 minute mark. The Blue Jackets collapsed down around Mayers-Heatley and Thornton-Setoguchi to smother San Jose scoring chances in front of the net. The Sharks pulled Antero Niittymaki at 18:02, but Boyle and Setoguchi could not find range from shots in the slot. Challenged on the point by Umberger, Boyle turned the puck over to Rick Nash and the Columbus captain made the Sharks pay with an empty net goal. It was the 5th hat trick of his career, and it cemented the Blue Jackets first win in San Jose in 6 years (first ever regulation win at HP Pavilion). Fans in San Jose threw a grand total of 2 hats on the ice, one was a Blackhawks hat.

Mathieu Garon finished with 35 saves on 35 shots against for his 3rd shutout of the season. With a 5-1 record, Garon leads the NHL with a 1.08GAA and a .960SV% in 7 games played. Garon was a player who had an excellent stint in Los Angeles, before moving to backup roles in Edmonton, Pittsburgh and then Columbus. Garon was a goaltender who could have accelerated the Kings renaissance by a season or two, and with Quick and Bernier in the fold left them another assest to deal. Failing to lock him up to a longer term deal was a mistake, although the Kings currently have significant cap space left to work with.

San Jose Sharks netminder Antero Niittymaki stopped 24 of 26 shots he faced. The Sharks power play finished 0-5 for the third straight game, and is on a stretch of 17 straight scoreless opportunities. The disjointed San Jose play culminated in 3 straight icings in the third period, followed by an offsides. The Blue Jackets 3-0 win was the first opponent shutout at HP Pavilion since October 2009, when the Phoenix Coyotes and Ilya Bryzgalov earned a 1-0 shootout victory. Defenseman Niclas Wallin returned to the lineup after missing 2 games, Jason Demers left the ice with an apparent hand injury in the second period and did not return, and Douglas Murray was scratched for the 4th consecutive game with a thumb injury. Ethan Moreau and Kristian “Juice” Huselius were out for Columbus.

A photo gallery from the event is available here. Youtube video highlights from the game are available here.

[Update] San Jose Sharks blanked at home by Columbus Blue Jackets – San Jose Mercury News.

[Update2] Game No. 18 – Columbus Post-Dispatch Puck Rakers blog.

Goaltender Mathieu Garon deserves as much praise as the Blue Jackets’ captain for the victory. Garon, after a 15=day break between action, had 35 saves for his third shutout of the season and 19th of his career. He came up especially huge late in the second period with the Sharks on the power play, when he made five saves in a 33-second span to preserve a 2-0 lead.

“I think we’re sending a message right now that we’re for real,” Garon said. “We played so well on this whole trip, and again today, very good. When we play that way, we’re going to be one of the top teams, for sure.”

[Update3] Jackets on a roll – Michael Arace for the Columbus Post-Dispatch.

I have been in the Shark Tank when the Jackets have been beaten 10-2 and 6-0. I have been there in San Jose when a 4-1 loss seemed tame for the Jackets. The place is like the Bates Motel. The Jackets check in and they get killed.

Bonus points to Arace for not going with the cliche Hotel California reference, one I could not resist here and here. Sweeping three strong home teams in California should send a message to the rest of the NHL, this team is for real.

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