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Thornton scores winner as Sharks beat Blue Jackets 3-2 for 9th straight win

NHL.com @NHL

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Joe Thornton scored the go-ahead goal with 12:19 to play, and the NHL-leading San Jose Sharks shook off a terrible start to earn their ninth straight victory, 3-2 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.

Captain Patrick Marleau scored and Jeremy Roenick added his second goal in 26 games for the Sharks, 14-0-1 at home. San Jose survived an early deficit and an unusually sluggish performance with a stellar effort from Evgeni Nabokov, who stopped 29 shots while bailing out his teammates several times.

Fredrik Modin and Rick Nash scored for the Blue Jackets, who opened a three-game California road trip by losing at the Shark Tank for the 15th time in the franchise's 16 trips. Steve Mason, the NHL's top rookie in November, made 19 saves.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic had three assists for the Sharks, who improved the NHL's best record to 22-3-1 during one of the most impressive starts in league history. Their current streak includes four one-goal victories, none in which the Sharks were outworked quite so soundly - but Nabokov came through in his best performance since a three-week injury absence.

Thornton played in his 248th consecutive game with the Sharks, setting a franchise record for the former league MVP. He also put San Jose ahead when he drew a delayed penalty in the corner, circled to the net and adroitly batted the rebound of Vlasic's shot out of the air for his eighth goal.

The Sharks have been an outstanding first-period team this season, but they were roundly outplayed by the Blue Jackets from the opening faceoff. A handful of stunning saves by Nabokov kept San Jose in the game, but Columbus finally scored when Nash's turnaround fling at the net ricocheted off defenceman Dan Boyle's stick for the captain's 13th goal.

Columbus outshot San Jose 14-4 in the first period - the lowest shot total in a first period this season for the Sharks, who lead the NHL in shots and goals.

The Jackets controlled play again in the second, and San Jose's failure to score during 99 seconds of a two-man advantage incited rumbling in a Shark Tank crowd that's seen almost no bad hockey by the home team this season.

But Marleau tied it when his attempt at a rebound shot deflected off defenceman Jan Hejda's stick and floated past Mason for the San Jose captain's 250th career goal late in a power play.

Roenick put the Sharks ahead 44 seconds into the third period with a power-play goal from the slot, but Modin tied it moments later when he grabbed a loose puck in the corner and beat Rob Blake and Nabokov.

Columbus had several 6-on-4 chances in the final 38 seconds after Vlasic took a penalty for flipping the puck into the stands, but Nash missed the net on an open shot with about five seconds to play.

Notes: Sharks D Brad Lukowich sustained a lower-body injury in the second period and didn't return. San Jose gave no specifics on the veteran, who arrived along with Boyle in a summer trade with Tampa Bay. ... RW Jonathan Cheechoo missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury. The former Richard Trophy winner might need a few more days to recover. ... Columbus LW Raffi Torres sat out with a knee injury. ... RW Tom Cavanagh made his season debut for the Sharks after replacing Riley Armstrong on the roster Wednesday.

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