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Blue Jackets keep playof hopes alive, beat Sharks

The SportsXchange

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Despite a six-week stretch that goes down as the best in franchise history, the Blue Jackets' hopes of reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs are gasping for life.

On Wednesday night, the Jackets breathed easy with a 4-0 win over San Jose before an announced crowd of 17,771 in Nationwide Arena.

Matt Calvert, James Wisniewski, Ryan Johansen and Marian Gaborik scored for the Blue Jackets, and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky had 30 saves for his fourth career shutout.

All of Bobrovsky's four career shutouts have occurred in his last 15 starts.

"I really liked the way we played tonight," said Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards, who was dismayed following a 3-0 loss to Minnesota on Sunday. "We got back to our style and our identity of playing fast. We defended well. Our goalie made saves when we needed them and we were opportunistic. It was a collective group effort tonight.

"When we're going well, we look like the faster team. Tonight we played with speed in all zones."

The Sharks, who suffered their fourth shutout of the season, had their season-long eight-game point streak (7-0-1) ended.

San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi was pulled after the lead grew to 4-0 in the third period. He stopped 22 of 26 shots before backup Thomas Greiss replaced him.

"We skated in sand, and even worse we probably had our heads in the sand," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "That's a bad combination. We had the intensity of probably an exibition game and it's April. That's sad."

The Sharks, a perrenial playoff participant, are firmly above the playoff line in the Western Conference standings.

But the Blue Jackets -- after enjoying one day in eighth place late last month -- are two points behind eighth-place Detroit despite going a 12-3-5 run beginning in late February.

With only eight games remaining, and six of them on the road, the Blue Jackets will need a minor miracle to reach the postseason for only the second time in franchise history.

"We look at the standings," Calvert said. "Of course we do. So we know what's in front of us. We need every point we can get. Every point. We're desperate now. We played like it tonight."

The Blue Jackets took a 1-0 lead at 8:39 of the first period, thanks to a relentess shift by their third-line grinders.

Cam Atkinson took two short-range hacks at the puck on the doorstep that Niemi managed to the stop, but the puck squirted into the slot where Calvert stood to bury it.

The lead quickly grew to 3-0 early in the second.

At 3:09, Adrian Aucoin set up Wisniewski for a one-timer from the high slot, and he buried it with a slap shot.

Two shifts later, Gaborik made a slick pass from the right circle to set up Johansen, who was coming fast through the slot. Johansen gathered the puck and fired it just under the crossbar past Niemi's glove.

Niemi's night ended when Gaborik scored at 7:16 of the third period after a great setup by Artem Anisimov to make it 4-0.

The Sharks thought they'd made it 4-1 with 5:21 to play, but Adam Burish's backhand sweep into the net was disallowed because of goaltender interference.

NOTES: Blue Jackets defenseman Dalton Prout and Johansen were both "game-time" decisions because of undisclosed injuries but played last night. ... The Blue Jackets recalled center Michael Chaput from their minor-league affiliate in Springfield on Monday, presumably for his NHL debut. But when Johansen was declared fit to play, Chaput was sent back to the minors. ... San Jose defenseman Scott Hannan (neck) is traveling with the club and took part in the morning skate but has not yet been cleared to play. ... Blue Jackets winger Vinny Prospal played in his 1,100th game. ... The Blue Jackets have outscored San Jose 10-2 in two games this season, both in Nationwide. They meet again later this month in San Jose.
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