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San Jose Sharks 1, Columbus Blue Jackets 0 FINAL @NHL

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The San Jose Sharks expected a win or a tie. The Columbus Blue Jackets have come to expect the worst.

Alyn McCauley scored with 4:59 left and Evgeni Nabokov made 26 saves in the Sharks' 1-0 victory over the Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

"We scored in the end," Nabokov said after his fourth shutout this season and the 21st of his career. "Maybe it would have been fair to have a tie."

The Blue Jackets would have gladly accepted a point, but again they gave up a late goal to fritter away 55 minutes of hard work.

"It's disappointing because we played well enough to win. But I'm getting tired of saying that," Columbus coach Doug MacLean said.

Marc Denis stopped 28 shots for Columbus, which has lost six in a row at home. The Blue Jackets tied their worst home stretch ever, going 0-6-1-1 in their last eight games at Nationwide Arena.

"Let's just hope that this is the end of something that's getting really old and the start of something new," Denis said. "Let's hope we're able to turn the page on a very mediocre year -- 2003 hasn't been kind."

McCauley was in the slot when he took a pass from Nils Ekman and slammed a slap shot through Denis' pads. It was McCauley's 10th goal of the season. Rob Davison also assisted.

"I wasn't really concentrating on picking any part of the net," McCauley said after the Sharks moved to 5-0-1-0 in their last six games.

He cracked, "Lo and behold, that one found a way to get in. The other ones I got out my geometry set and tried to figure out the angle that I needed to score on and it didn't work."

There were boos from a capacity crowd of 18,136 as the Blue Jackets -- who have the worst record in the NHL -- left the ice.

"That's 15 one-goal losses this year," MacLean said. "That's just ridiculous."

Nabokov didn't have to make many outstanding saves but handled the tough shots he did face. He stopped NHL goals leader Rick Nash on a breakaway late in the first period and made a big save on Nash's power-play drive midway through the second period.

"I don't think we played awesome, but we played smart," Nabokov said. "We took what they gave us. In a game like this, one goal is everything. Every shot's important and they were in front of the net all the time."

Sharks coach Ron Wilson said it became apparent the outcome would likely turn on one play.

"About halfway through the game, we just decided it might be one of those 0-0 or 1-0 games and we'd better be on our toes," he said. "We didn't seem to have our normal legs. We were able to skate OK but we didn't have the extra zip until maybe the third period came along. We looked a little faster, a little more on the ball. We haven't had a practice since before Christmas because of our schedule."

Perhaps Columbus' best chance at a goal came with 12:50 remaining when Geoff Sanderson's shot was just wide of the net.

Denis has lost his last eight decisions. His last victory came Dec. 2 against Anaheim.

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