Vesa Toskala took his spot in the crease across from Marc Denis to start the contest.
Just 21 seconds in, Jason Chimera clipped Jonathan Cheechoo in the face and the Sharks power play unit was on the ice. A strong opportunity by Cheechoo was turned away on the one-timer and that was the Sharks best chance prior to the power play expiring.
At even strength, Nils Ekman, still sporting the cuts from his last two contests, nearly provided the early lead. However, his redirect of a Christian Ehrhoff shot went just high and the game remained scoreless.
Nine minutes into the first frame, San Jose would strike. Rookie Steve Bernier picked off a Sergei Fedorov pass in the Sharks offensive zone and simply turned and fired on Denis from the high slot. Adam Foote attempted to block the puck, but that turned into a screen as Bernier’s 10th career goal snuck in far side.
Fedorov looked to make amends three minutes later when he picked off a Sharks pass in the Sharks defensive zone. He skated in on Toskala, but San Jose’s netminder matched him move for move and Fedorov simply ran out of room before he could get off a shot.
Both sides were skating strong, but the offensive efforts were being matched by the defensive efforts and the chances were limited.
With two minutes remaining in the first, Toskala faced a three-on-two rush. He challenged Chimera on the shot, but instead of attempting to score, Chimera skated behind the net. As he came out the other side attempting to stuff the puck in prior to Toskala getting back in the crease, the Sharks defenders closed and prevented any such effort and the period would end with San Jose up 1-0.
The second period began just as the first as Joe Thornton
was held up, giving San Jose a power play in the period’s opening minute. San Jose couldn’t muster any offensive momentum and the Blue Jackets killed off a second Sharks advantage.
Bernier looked to make the lead two goals early in the second, but Denis just stopped his driving shot and Marleau’s follow from a bad angle couldn’t quite strike the net.
With 12 minutes left in the middle stanza, Fedorov was called for hooking Ehrhoff, but the power play was almost unnecessry. A perfect up-ice pass found Marleau crossing the blueline and he skated in on Denis. Marleau ripped off a shot, but Denis had the answer and the man-advantage ensued.
Columbus had the best opportunities when first, Foote was stopped on an unobstructed shot from the high slot, and then Manny Maholtra rang one off the post. When San Jose settled down, the power play was complete and the guests were zero for three.
With seven minutes left in the second, the Sharks posted their best offensive set of the game. Thornton began the play, first setting up Cheechoo and then Kyle McLaren. That was followed up by a blast from Marleau. Denis was there on each occasion, as he was earning his keep.
Bernier earned the Sharks a fifth power play late in the second when he drove the net with a defender draped all over him. The Sharks controlled the rebound and put another shot on Denis during the delayed call. but again, could not solve the former Colorado netminder.
During the two minutes, both Bernier and Cheechoo had strong efforts to pad the lead, only to see Denis continue his strong performance. The Quebec netminder saved his best stp[for the end of the penalty when he robbed Ville Nieminen on what looked to be an empty net. Columbus actually received a break on the play when a defender covered the puck with his hand in the crease, but the call wasn't made.
With 1:02 left in the middle stanza, Columbus pulled even with Team Teal. A centering pass from the blueline perfectly hit Rick Nash in front of the crease and he reached around Toskala to tuck in the tying goal.
Marleau and Bernier took off on an odd-man rush early in the third, but a poke check by Ladislov Suchy prevented Marleau from hitting Bernier on the rush.
Four minutes into the third, Josh Gorges was called for holding the stick and the Blue Jackets had their first power play. Then just 15 seconds into the advantage, an Alyn McCauley clearing attempt went off a Blue Jackets player and into the stands, but ruling was that the puck did not hit anybody and Columbus had a 1:45 five-on-three advantage.
While shorthanded two men, a Rick Nash pass bounced off Scott Hannan and past Toskala, putting the Sharks down a goal for the first time on the evening. The Jackets were still on the power play and they would make it 3-1 when a point shot was deflected past Toskala. Neither shot was clean, but they counted on the scoreboard agaisnt Toskala.
Matching minors halfway into the third provided two minutes for open ice, but neither club could add to their totals. Mark Smith almost hit pay dirt a moment later, but again Denis was in position. San Jose was firing at will with seven minutes left in regulation, but a chance by Nieminen and Thornton couldn’t find the back of the net.
With the clock ticking to less than three minutes, Marleau appeared to have time on a wrister low in the slot, but Klesla hooked the stuck just before the release and eliminated the Sharks effort.
Toskala was pulled to try and tie the contest late, but Malhotra deposited the empty-netter to make the final 4-1.
With the Sharks in Ohio and the Barons having the night off, the entire club bussed the two hours from Cleveland to Columbus to watch the parent club.
The Sharks will play the first of successive home games against the Phoenix Coyotes Thursday night. Tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be aired on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com at 7:30 p.m. PST.