COLUMBUS, Ohio - Patrick Marleau has played 1,076 games in the NHL, yet he still gets a charge out of seeing a puck on the end of his stick and an almost vacant net.
Marleau scored off a rebound with 2:57 left to lead San Jose to a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night, extending the Sharks' point streak to eight games.
"You dream of those, that's for sure," he said of his game-winner.
Ryane Clowe also had a goal for the Sharks, who are 6-0-1 in the new year and 6-0-2 in their last eight games. Thomas Greiss had 25 saves to beat the Blue Jackets for the second time in his only two starts since Dec. 3. He also defeated Columbus by the same score in San Jose on Jan. 5.
But about all anyone wanted to talk about in the Sharks' dressing room was a vicious shoulder-to-head hit by the Blue Jackets' Dane Byers on San Jose's Andrew Desjardins three minutes into the second period. A groggy Desjardins had to be helped to the dressing room. Brad Winchester jumped to Desjardins' defence and fought Byers, who was handed a match penalty.
Desjardins did not return to the ice, but later said he was feeling better.
"I feel for Dezzie," coach Todd McLellan said. "He's really starting to fit in and play real well for our team. He's getting more penalty-kill time and is a very competitive guy. To see him get hit like that, that's exactly what we want to eliminate from the game—exactly."
The Sharks had nearly scored with 3:20 left in regulation when Jamie McGinn fed Torrey Mitchell, who appeared to have an empty net in front of him. But the puck scooted wide.
Seconds later, Dan Boyle slid a quick pass to Joe Pavelski, who carried the puck over the blue line and muscled a shot on Columbus goalie Curtis Sanford. Sanford deflected it to the left wing where Marleau pounced on it for his 17th of the year—and 374th of his career.
"A good play by Pav, and Boyler to hit him going up the ice," Marleau said. "I was just in the right spot at the right time, I guess."
Greiss was effective all night, despite not seeing much action lately. He was making only his second start since he gave up five goals on 35 shots in a 5-3 loss to Florida on Dec. 3. Antti Niemi started the next 13 games before Greiss gave up just one goal on 23 shots in the 2-1 win over the Blue Jackets earlier this month.
"Greiss was very good. His last two starts, both against Columbus, have been exceptional," McLellan said. "It makes us feel very good heading into this busy stretch."
The Sharks, now 18-1-3 when leading after two periods, broke a scoreless duel with a power-play goal at 14:59 of the second period.
Brent Burns' hard, high slap shot from the right point pinged off the far post, with Pavelski and Logan Couture scrambling to get to the loose puck. Couture got there first and was able to chip the puck toward the goal mouth from the left goal line. Clowe was there to reach back with his stick waist-high to jam it into the net.
Clowe hadn't scored a goal since the last time the teams met, a 2-1 victory at home for San Jose on Jan. 5.
Sanford pointed his stick at Clowe instantly after the goal, hoping the official would call a high stick.
"You feel when you're stick's too high," Clowe said after scoring his ninth of the year. "I knew it was either at the crossbar or below. I knew right away that it was good."
Burns stretched his points streak to four games, during which he has three assists and a goal, while Couture has points in the last three games after notching goals in the previous two.
Rick Nash, scoring his fourth goal in four games, evened it for Columbus at 6:53 of the third with a lethal snap shot from the top of the left circle that sneaked just inside the far post.
"He put it in a good spot," Greiss said with a laugh.
A night after picking up his first win as the Blue Jackets' interim head coach (Columbus fired second-year coach Scott Arniel on Monday), Todd Richards was tagged with his first home loss.
"I'm disappointed with the result, losing a game, but happy with the way the guys played," Richards said. "We had to overcome a lot of obstacles in the game. Having played last night and coming off an emotional and physically draining win, when we needed the push in the third we got as much as we could. Unfortunately, they made one more play than we did."
NOTES: The Sharks won 2-0 at Winnipeg on Thursday night, then flew into Columbus. McLellan sat in the press box and watchedthe Blue Jackets beat the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday night, 4-3. ... That win was Columbus' first regulation home win since Nov. 25. ... The Blue Jackets claimed LW Colton Gillies off waivers from the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday. He will likely make his debut on Tuesday night at home against Edmonton.