Sergei Bobrovsky’s early season struggles have been no secret, but there was no sniff of the sort tonight in San Jose.
He was the best player on the ice for either side, leading the way with 41 saves as the Blue Jackets kicked off their California road swing with a 5-2 win over the Sharks at SAP Center. Bobrovsky picked up his third win of the season – all three coming on the road – and made timely saves when called upon to allow the Jackets to play freely.
“Our goaltender stood tall tonight,” head coach John Tortorella said. “Bob was outstanding.”
At the other end, the club was equally as impressive. Tortorella was able to roll four lines, three defense pairs and keep the legs fresh throughout the game.
Brandon Saad opened the scoring with a power play goal (his fifth goal of the year, fourth on the power play), a rather fluky play at the side of the net but a fortunate bounce he’ll take. Some hard work from line mate Brandon Dubinsky made it happen, and Saad made sure to get the puck past Martin Jones for a 1-0 Columbus lead at the 6:11 mark.
The only blemish through the first 40 minutes was a late first period goal for San Jose that resulted from missed coverage off a face-off. Justin Braun put the puck on net from the point, and Joe Pavelski got a piece of it on the way in to make it a 1-1 game with 64 seconds left in the first.
A back-and-forth second period ended quite favorably for the Blue Jackets, corralled during a TV timeout by Tortorella in a 2-2 game, who let his team know that they had plenty of time left in the period to get the momentum back after Pavelski’s second tied the game again.
In a span of 29 seconds, they took the game in their grasp and didn’t let go.
Scott Hartnell, who played a fine game (goal and an assist), chased the puck down behind the Sharks net, forcing the defenseman into a mistake – and Boone Jenner was lurking in front to cash in.
Jenner’s team-leading seventh of the season gave the Blue Jackets a 3-2 lead with 1:28 left in the middle frame, and Murray wired a wrist shot through a maze of bodies to make it a quick two-goal lead for Columbus in the final minute.
“Confidence was high tonight,” Saad said. “Any time you score, you want to keep that momentum going and when you strike twice like that, it takes the air out of the other team’s tires. You want to finish a period like that.”
The Sharks had a push in the third period, but the Blue Jackets – led by their goaltender – were ready for it. Bobrovsky was tested most often in the final frame, when San Jose fired 18 pucks in his direction and all 18 were turned aside.
“It was our most complete game of the whole season,” said defenseman Fedor Tyutin, who was a +2 with four blocked shots in his return to game action.
“That’s the way this league works – you can’t go too far without your goalie, and he did an excellent job tonight.”