COLUMBUS, Ohio — The elusive first win without Joe Thornton is in the bank.
The Sharks (27-16-8) finally got rewarded for their strong play without their emotional leader Friday, ending a season-high four-game losing streak by beating the Columbus Blue Jackets (27-20-4) 3-1 at Nationwide Arena.
The win allowed the Sharks to break a tie with the Anaheim Ducks and move into sole possession of second place in the Pacific Division with 62 points.
Before Friday’s win, the Sharks had lost three-consecutive games since Thornton suffered a right-knee injury on Jan. 23. They lost in a seven-round shootout Wednesday, spoiled a 42-shot performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday and came out on the wrong end of a 6-5 shootout with the New York Rangers on Jan. 23, their eighth game in 13 nights.
Logan Couture opened the scoring at 5:07 of the first Friday, recording his team-leading 22nd goal on the power play. Couture shot the puck in off Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson with Brent Burns screening goalie Sergei Bobrovsky in front.
Kevin Labanc and Tomas Hertl earned assists on the goal. Hertl has now collected points in eight of his last nine games.
The Sharks added another power play goal at 10:20 of the second when Labanc notched his second goal in as many games, taking advantage of an open look in the slot with a two-man advantage. Joe Pavelski fed Labanc the puck from the side boards.
The power play went 2 for 3 on the night, improving to 4 for 11 (36.4 percent) without Thornton.
Martin Jones continued to thrive in his return from injury. The Sharks goalie followed up his 43-save performance against the Red Wings Wednesday by stopping 28 of the 29 shots he faced while starting his third game in four nights.
Jones had missed the Sharks last four games before All-Star weekend with a lower-body injury.
The Sharks goalie’s lone blemish came off a tricky redirection when defenseman Dylan DeMelo lunged to contest a Boone Jenner shot that jumped up into the top-right corner at 4:30 of the second.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic gave the Sharks a 3-1 lead at 6:51 of the third, flipping a backhand shot past Bobrovsky after Justin Braun chipped the puck up through the neutral zone. Timo Meier also recorded an assist on the play.
With six tallies in the new year, Vlasic tops all NHL defensemen in goals since Jan.1. His ninth goal of the season also tied his career high set in 2014-15.
Couture left the game for a few minutes in the third after taking a puck to the mouth. The Sharks alternate captain missed the last seven games of the 2016-17 season after taking a puck to his mouth that caused damage to all of his teeth.
With the win, the Sharks improved to 19-0-1 when leading after two periods.