COLUMBUS, Ohio - Suddenly, the Columbus Blue Jackets are a formidable opponent.
Sergei Fedorov scored the decisive goal late in the second period, and Pascal Leclaire made 16 saves to help the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the San Jose Sharks 2-1 on Saturday night for their third consecutive win.
"We are a difficult team to play against in the middle of the ice," said Fedorov, who helped the Detroit Red Wings win Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998 and 2002. "And I think we didn't make any turnovers in the neutral zone."
Dan Fritsche also scored for Columbus, off to the best start in franchise history at 6-3-1. Manny Malhotra added two assists.
Leclaire allowed only Joe Thornton's goal, sending San Jose to its second straight loss. On Friday night in Detroit, the Red Wings routed the Sharks 5-1.
"The thing that is impressive for us is it was our sixth game in 11 days," said Ken Hitchcock, who has overseen a remarkable turnaround in his first full season as head coach. "We are learning to play with the lead by not sitting back, instead going after it."
The road-weary Sharks, held to just five shots in the third period, have played eight of their first 11 games away from home.
After a giveaway by defenceman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen deep in his own zone that left Columbus scrambling midway through the first period, Ryane Clowe fed Thornton down low. Thornton's shot deflected off Adam Foote's stick past Leclaire for his fourth of the season.
Just 1:17 later, a San Jose defensive turnover helped even things. Fritsche stole the puck at the blue-line and worked a give-and-go with Malhotra into the slot before shooting over Evgeni Nabokov's glove.
Fritsche was more interested in talking about his team instead of his goal.
"There's not one person, magazine, publisher, anything that has us making the playoffs this year," Fritsche said. "We have a lot of people to prove wrong and a lot of respect to gain. We're on our way."
The Sharks killed a two-man disadvantage that lasted more than a minute and a half.
The Sharks' Christian Ehrhoff just missed wide on a slick counter-attack feed from Patrick Marleau while skating 4-on-4. Not long after a San Jose penalty expired, Michael Peca chipped a pass toward centre ice to Rick Nash, who fended off hulking defenceman Kyle McLaren on his way to the net. But Nabokov stopped the backhander.
It was the best chance of the night for Nash, who had his five-game goal-scoring streak snapped.
Late in the period, with San Jose's Douglas Murray in the penalty box with a double-minor for high-sticking Nikolai Zherdev, Fedorov scored what would be the winner. He floated a screened shot from the point through traffic and past Nabokov for his third of the season.
"We kind of got a bad break on Dougie Murray's penalty," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "The puck bounces, he takes a swipe at it, misses it, hits the guy in the face and draws blood and we have to kill a four-minute penalty."
Notes: Geoff Sanderson has the Columbus record with seven consecutive games with at least one goal, set in 2002-03. ... The Sharks are already on their second four-game road trip of the young season. ... San Jose C Jeremy Roenick remained two goals shy of 500 for his career.