SAN JOSE -- Opportunity squandered.

Continuing a pattern of playing down to opponents who won't be joining them in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Sharks lost 3-0 to the Nashville Predators on a Saturday night when San Jose could have returned to first place in the Pacific Division.

"Keep getting the same results," coach Todd McLellan said after the Predators joined the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes as nonplayoff teams to sweep San Jose this season. "It's almost insanity."

Three second-period Nashville goals -- two by Patric Hornqvist, one by Roman Josi -- against Sharks goalie Antti Niemi did the damage. At the other end of the ice, the Sharks were frustrated by backup netminder Carter Hutton, a former prospect of theirs, who made 35 saves to earn the first shutout of his 40-game NHL career.

Nashville did the Sharks a huge favor 24 hours earlier by beating the Anaheim Ducks to increase San Jose's fading chances for a Pacific Division title. With a victory, the Sharks could have vaulted over the Ducks into first place, one point ahead of an Anaheim team that would still have two games in hand.

Adding to San Jose's frustration was the fact the team put itself in position to pass the Ducks by beating the Los Angeles Kings with a strong effort in their previous game.

"After the game we put together against L.A., to give a showing like that is unacceptable," Jason Demers said. "We didn't come out to work. We just sat back on our heels and let them take the game to us."


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The Sharks did hold the territorial edge in a scoreless first period, outshooting the Predators 9-5. But the wheels came off in the second.

"We were emotionally not attached to the game in the second period," McLellan said. "We're at Game 79, and the details and the system play, you should be able to do it in your sleep at this point. We didn't do that."

The first two Nashville goals came shortly after San Jose power plays expired, and that was a big part of the problem, according to the coach.

"I thought after the power play didn't have success, we slouched a little bit," McLellan said. "Our body language wasn't very good, and they took the game over at that point."

The Predators opened the scoring at 3:48 of the middle period when Matt Cullen fired a shot from the right faceoff, and the rebound fell at Niemi's feet. Left unchecked, Hornqvist was able to whack in the rebound before the Sharks goalie could locate the puck.

Nashville made it 2-0 at 8:59 when nobody picked up Hornqvist in the slot while defenseman Dan Boyle stayed with forward Nick Spaling as he carried the puck behind the net. Spaling found Hornqvist, and his one-timer beat Niemi on the glove side.

The Nashville lead grew to 3-0 at 13:16 when Josi drove down the left sideboards and cut to the net around Demers. Josi got off a weak shot as he reached the crease, but Demers said he ended up kicking the puck that floated over Niemi and into the back of the net.

"I just took a bad angle, and once he gets a step, I can't reach," Demers said. "Just stuff like that, little mental error, and then I kicked it in. It's kind of compounding an error. It's something that's not in my game right now, and I take responsibility for that one."

By the third period, McLellan was shuffling his forwards onto different lines. And while the Sharks played with more desperation and threw 19 shots on goal, the results were not there. Tommy Wingels couldn't get all of a rebound of a shot by Justin Braun, and Hutton made the save. Later, Matt Irwin fired a shot off the far post.

The Sharks don't play again until Wednesday when they face the Ducks, who, by then, will have pulled even with San Jose in games played.

"You know what? We've got to leave this behind us," McLellan said. "It's the time of year now where you can't have baggage. You can't carry things forward."

For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/PollakOnSharks.

Wednesday's game

Sharks (49-21-9) at Anaheim (50-19-8) 7:30 p.m. NBCSN