Sloppy Sharks bungle playoff clincher

HP PAVILION — The Sharks came into Sunday’s game against Columbus knowing a single point would clinch a playoff berth.

It wasn’t their best outing, but San Jose would overcome a two-goal deficit to tie the game at 14:57 of the third period.

The momentum lasted for three and a half minutes until a critical turnover by Joe Pavelski with 1:37 left in regulation resulted in a game-winning goal by Ryan Johansen as the Blue Jackets beat the Sharks 4-3.

Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu had two goals and an assist for Columbus, which has won six of its last seven games playing for their playoff lives:

Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu

“I think we’ve been through it a bit now. We’ve been galvanized a bit by the road trip, playing in a lot of different hostile buildings. This building is tough to play in, tough to win in. We came up with one more play than them tonight. We came up with that one shot that (Ryan Johansen) had at the end and usually that’s the difference now down the stretch and the playoffs is one big play.”

The Sharks wouldn’t admit to being affected by the earlier 5 p.m. start time, but it certainly had them a step slow whereas Columbus was desperate needing two points just to remain in playoff contention.

Sharks center Joe Pavelski

“We’re not using that as an excuse, we have to be ready right at the puck drop whether it’s one o’clock, five o’clock, 7 or 7:30, it doesn’t really matter to us. We love playing the game. When you’re coming out of the Sharks’ mouth, juices are flowing. It doesn’t really matter what time it is. For whatever reason we didn’t get going until the third.”

The Sharks have been nearly unbeatable at home, losing for only the second time in regulation during the lockout-shortened season. Their only other defeat came against the Chicago Blackhawks on February 5.

Three of the four Blue Jackets goals came as a result of Sharks turnovers and the fourth goal was on the power play.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan

“I don’t think we brought a lot of energy to the game, I didn’t think we managed the puck very well and the game very well tonight. We turned pucks over in some bad areas … had plenty of offense. Offense was not the problem one bit tonight, it was the defensive part and the puck management, game management.”

Down two goals after allowing Columbus to score twice off turnovers, Martin Havlat scored from near the crease between two defenders after a nice centering feed from behind the net by Logan Couture.

The Sharks were down 3-1 after two periods and it seemed miraculous they were able to tie the game. Andrew Desjardins gave a terrific singular effort to skate into the Columbus zone and work his way towards the slot. Thanks to a nice screen by Joe Thornton to block the goalie, Desjardins was able to find the back of the net.

Then it was veteran Scott Gomez on a perfect feed to a driving Pavelski whose wrister beat Sergei Bobrovsky on the glove side.

The Sharks’ surge in the third period tied the game briefly. But San Jose was simply careless with the puck, and no matter what the sport, the team with the most turnovers more often than not, loses the game.

That point was punctuated when Justin Braun’s pass to Pavelski was turned over near the blue line. RJ Umberger poked checked the puck away and Ryan Johansen skated with it and beat Niemi from the slot for the eventual game winner.

Notes

San Jose committed 17 giveaways compared to six for Columbus. … The Sharks outshot the Blue Jackets 35-22. … The Sharks all-time record at HP Pavilion against Columbus now stands at 19-2-2. …  Scott Gomez registered the 700th point of his career with his assist on Joe Pavelski’s third period goal. … Havlat has 29 points (9 goals, 20 assists) in 31 career games against Columbus.