SAN JOSE -- The Sharks came within 97 seconds of clinching a spot in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs Sunday.
But a turnover led to a late goal that gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 4-3 victory at HP Pavilion, denying the Sharks the one point they needed to guarantee their ninth consecutive postseason appearance.
Less than four minutes before Joe Pavelski lost control of the puck in his own zone and Columbus center Ryan Johansen scored the game-winner, the Sharks forward had scored the power-play goal that drew the Sharks even after they began the final period two goals down.
"It's a crucial moment in the game," Pavelski said of his error. "You want to be out there at that time. There's a lot of guys in here who put a lot of work in throughout the game. ... A giveaway like that is tough."
It was only the second regulation loss at HP Pavilion all season for the Sharks, who bring a 16-2-5 record into their home finale Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars.
Two goals and an assist by Blue Jackets forward Mark Letestu did the most damage for the Blue Jackets, who also picked up a goal from Vinny Prospal on an earlier San Jose turnover by defenseman Brad Stuart.
The Sharks got goals from Marty Havlat and Andrew Desjardins as well as Pavelski in what had been billed as a showdown of potential Vezina-winning goalies, Antti Niemi of the Sharks and Sergei Bobrovsky of Columbus.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan was far more concerned about the decline in his team's level of play after it won three straight games than about failing to clinch the playoff spot.
"I listen to coaches stand in this spot after every game around the league, and they're trying to get their teams to play the right way heading in" to the playoffs, said McLellan, faulting his team for everything from poor puck management to extended shifts. "We've got that going, and we can't let that slip."
The Blue Jackets, who humbled the Sharks twice at Nationwide Arena in sweeping the season series with San Jose, had plenty of motivation as well, as they are hoping to make the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history.
The first of Letestu's two goals put the Blue Jackets ahead 1-0 at 16:53 of the first period when he deflected a centering pass into the San Jose net. Columbus doubled its lead at 4:27 of the second period on Stuart's giveaway that Prospal buried.
San Jose cut the gap in half less than three minutes later when Logan Couture fed Havlat slicing toward the net, and he beat Bobrovsky at 7:14. But San Jose's fifth-ranked penalty kill gave up a goal to Columbus's league-worst power play at 12:42 when Letestu blasted a shot from the left point, and the Sharks trailed 3-1 going into the final period.
Desjardins' strong solo effort after taking a pass from Matt Irwin made it 3-2 at 6:34, and the Sharks tied it when Pavelski took a feed from Scott Gomez and one-timed it past Bobrovsky at 14:57.
Then came Johansen's crushing goal.
"We've just got to regroup and be ready for a desperate team coming in here again on Tuesday," Stuart said. "Obviously, we would have liked to wrap it up and get the point, but it didn't happen."
But the coach said he was not singling out Thornton for poor play, just trying to "jolt some people."
Dallas (22-19-4) at Sharks (24-14-7), 7 p.m., CSNCA