Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Rick Nash (61) crashes into San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31), of Finland, in the first period on an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Joe Thornton scored twice to get San Jose off to a fast start out of the all-star break and Antti Niemi posted his 17th career shutout in the Sharks' 6-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Jamie McGinn and Michal Handzus also scored for the Sharks, who have beaten the Blue Jackets 19 times in 21 games at HP Pavilion.
Four of San Jose's goals came on second chances as Steve Mason struggled to control his rebounds all game. Mason finished with 37 saves as the Blue Jackets lost their fifth straight.
With a daunting second-half schedule that includes a nine-game, 15-day road trip with three sets of back-to-backs this month, the Sharks could ill afford a slipup at home against the NHL's worst team.
San Jose came out strong as the struggling power-play unit delivered a goal, the team tied its second-highest scoring game of the season and Niemi made 30 saves for his second straight shutout.
The Sharks looked well-rested while the Blue Jackets just appeared rusty. San Jose had 16 of the game's first 20 shots on goal and broke out to a 2-0 lead before the midpoint of the first period. The game was never in doubt after that.
After a sluggish power play following a penalty on Jared Boll for hitting Thornton in the head just 20 seconds into the game, the Sharks got rolling. Marleau got the rebound of Justin Braun's point shot and lifted it past Mason for his 375th career goal midway through the first.
Just two seconds after that goal, San Jose's Jim Vandermeer squared off in a fight with Boll in apparent retaliation for the early hit on Thornton. Vandermeer and Boll fought again early in the third.
Thornton got his own version of revenge less than two minutes after the first bout. Andrew Desjardins pressured Fedor Tyutin into a turnover and Thornton took advantage, putting his own rebound past Mason to make it 2-0.
The Sharks, who had converted on just 13.8 per cent of their power-play chances over the past 28 games, got a man-advantage goal in the second period with Derick Brassard off for interfering with Colin White in the offensive zone. With Derek MacKenzie playing without a stick, Pavelski fired a shot from the point that deflected off MacKenzie's glove and inside the post to make it 3-0 early in the second.
McGinn added a rebound goal later in the period for his 10th of the season. Handzus added his first goal since Dec. 15 early in the third off another rebound chance.
Thornton, who hadn't scored in 10 straight games before the break, struck again midway through the third to give him his second multigoal game of the season.
Notes: F Ryane Clowe missed his sixth straight game for San Jose with facial injuries but could be back Thursday. ... D Jason Demers sat out with a lower-body injury. ... The Sharks recalled F John McCarthy from Worcester of the AHL. ... This was a milestone game for San Jose D Dan Boyle (800th career game), Brent Burns (500th) and Douglas Murray (400th), as well as Mason (200th.) ... The Blue Jackets did beat San Jose in Sweden last season when the Sharks were designated as the home team. ... Each team got three additional fighting penalties in the chippy third period, including a rare one for Boyle against Brassard. There were three misconducts issued in the period.