“You feel the atmosphere now,” San Jose captain Joe Thornton said. “Guys are excited for the break. It’s always nice to win before things like this or Christmas. The guys will enjoy the break and come back ready to work for the second half.”
The Sharks will be a different team when they next play Feb. 28 in Philadelphia, with the expected return of injured players Logan Couture, Raffi Torres, Matt Nieto and Tyler Kennedy.
“We’re 80 points at the Olympic break,” coach Todd McLellan said. “We would have been probably pleased with that at the beginning of the season considering some of the players we lost over and throughout the year. We go into the break satisfied. Coming out of it we have work to do.”
McLellan also broke Darryl Sutter’s franchise record by coaching in his 435th game. He already is the franchise leader in wins with 257.
Ryan Johansen and Boone Jenner scored for the Blue Jackets, who trail Philadelphia by one point for third place in the Metropolitan Division after losing tight games on consecutive nights in San Jose and Los Angeles. Sergei Bobrovsky made 44 saves.
“Obviously, you don’t want to go into a break with a loss but we have been playing great hockey the past few games,” Johansen said. “The boys battled hard and we just fell a little short.”
Columbus got worn down in the third against the more-rested Sharks, especially on an extended shift early in the period that led to Wingels‘ goal. With the Blue Jackets unable to change a tiring unit under relentless pressure from San Jose, Wingels knocked in a rebound of Jason Demers’ shot for his second goal in two games to make it 3-1.
“The third goal was obviously the big one,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “They had momentum at that point. If it’s a one-shot lead, it’s something we can do.”
Jenner scored midway through the period on Columbus’ second shot of the third when Johansen set him up following a turnover by Demers.
Columbus took advantage of a San Jose turnover to get on the board 18 seconds into the second. Thornton’s clearing attempt from the corner was knocked down just inside the blue line by Johansen, who quickly flipped a wrist shot past Niemi before he could react to cut the Sharks‘ lead to 2-1.
Bobrovsky, starting on back-to-back nights for the first time since the opening two games of the season, fell into a 2-0 hole less than halfway through the first period.
McCarthy, who cleared waivers and was sent to the minors last week, made the most of his opportunity in his return after an injury to Nieto. McCarthy won an offensive zone faceoff against Brandon Dubinsky to start his second shift of the night and went straight toward the net.