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Blue Jackets edge Sharks in Bobrovsky's return

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The hug is back.

After each Columbus Blue Jackets victory for Sergei Bobrovsky, left wing Nick Foligno is the last player to congratulate him, and it's always with a wraparound.

The hug was more special than usual Saturday at Nationwide Arena because it's been a long time coming for Bobrovsky, who did not play the previous eight games because of a fractured finger on his glove hand.

Bobrovsky made 36 saves and withstood a late San Jose Sharks power play for a 2-1 win, his first since defeating the Sharks on Oct. 23.

"I told him before the game I expect big hug," Bobrovsky said.

Columbus (6-10-1) had to kill a high-sticking double minor to Alexander Wennberg with five minutes left in the game. The Sharks (9-8-2) got three shots during the four-minute power play, and Bobrovsky made two more saves after San Jose pulled goalie Antti Niemi for an extra attacker with 81 seconds left.

When it was over, Bobrovsky had his 100th career victory and the Blue Jackets had a second win in as many nights after a nine-game losing streak (0-8-1).

"I tried to lift him, but the sucker's heavy," Foligno said of Bobrovsky.

David Savard and Cam Atkinson gave the Blue Jackets a 2-0 lead before Joe Pavelski scored late in the second period for the Sharks.

The Blue Jackets badly needed Bobrovsky, the 2013 Vezina Trophy winner, to get healthy. He improved to 5-4-0 this season; backups Curtis McElhinney and Anton Forsberg are a combined 1-6-1.

"It's unfortunate we didn't play well for the other two," Foligno said. "But [Bobrovsky] is a superstar for a reason."

San Jose coach Todd McLellan didn't complain about the Sharks' performance despite the loss. He's been looking for consistency, and in the past two games, including a 2-1 win at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, he's seen it.

"The effort was an honest one," he said. "We have to live with an honest effort and not winning at times. We had a number of opportunities to put the puck in the net. We didn't. We had a number of shots that were blocked or deflected because we were not releasing quickly enough.

"Defensively, we didn't give up a lot. We had to open it up in the third, and they had some chances. For the most part the fact we had a competitive night was a positive."

Still, the Sharks will rue not taking advantage of a strong second period and the power-play time at the end.

"We had a big moment there in the third with the four-minute power play," Pavelski said. "We needed a big play. We didn't get it."

Bobrovsky was tested in the first six minutes of his return when he stopped consecutive slap shots by Justin Braun and a follow-up from the slot by Joe Thornton among his 11 saves in the first period.

"The guys helped a lot," Bobrovsky said. "They made it comfortable for me."

San Jose needed 10 more shots in the second period before Pavelski beat Bobrovsky and cut a 2-0 deficit in half. Pavelski got his eighth goal of the season off the cycling of Thornton, who drew the attention of several Blue Jackets and was able to find Pavelski in the right circle.

Pavelski almost lost the puck on a poke check by Boone Jenner but avoided the swipe and scored on a wrist shot past Bobrovsky with 55 seconds left in the period.

"Some of the mistakes we were making were simple, simple plays, but we found a way to win," Columbus coach Todd Richards said.

San Jose was dominant in the second period, pinning the Blue Jackets deep for extended periods.

"I know it's back-to-back (games), but we still have to get better," Foligno said. "That second period we have to be more aggressive. We've got to get the puck out of our own end."

Columbus had taken the two-goal lead on Savard's goal in the first and a power-play goal by Atkinson with 3:21 remaining in the second. Atkinson was back door at the side of the net to put in his seventh goal off a deft pass by Jack Johnson.

In the first period, Columbus center Artem Anisimov marked his return after missing seven games because of a concussion by getting the secondary assist on Savard's goal with 5:43 remaining. It was Anisimov's carry into the zone that allowed Adam Cracknell to get a shot from the left wing that Niemi (26 saves) turned aside.

The Blue Jackets never trailed because of Bobrovsky.

"He's one of the best goalies in the League," San Jose defenseman Mirco Mueller said. "He made it tough for us. We just couldn't bury it."

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