SAN JOSE – The Sharks continued their early season trend of first period dominance in a game with Columbus on Thursday at SAP Center.
Unfortunately, their trend of faltering in the later periods continued in a stunning 5-4 loss to the Blue Jackets.
After starting the season 4-0-1, the Sharks have lost three straight games in regulation to fall to 4-3-1.
Mark Letestu scored the game-winner with just 20.7 seconds remaining, tipping in a point shot by David Savard to cap a wild, seesaw battle.
The Sharks trailed 3-2 to start the final frame, but Joe Pavelski’s second goal of the game and fourth overall knotted the score at 3-3. Joe Thornton pushed Pavelski the puck in the circle, and the Wisconsin native curved it through Jack Johnson’s legs and past Sergei Bobrovsky at 2:05.
Logan Couture gave San Jose the lead back at 8:23, pouncing on a bad turnover by Cody Goloubef and racing in for an unassisted marker. Couture finished with two points, and has seven points in his last four games.
The lead didn’t last, though, as Nick Foligno’s power play marker re-tied it. A point shot by James Wisniewski rattled around, and Scott Hartnell alertly kicked the puck through the crease to an open Foligno for an easy poke across the line at 11:40.
The Sharks have scored first in six of eight games, and hold a 10-1 advantage in the first period overall, best in the league. In the third period, however, they have been outscored 12-6.
Columbus improved to 5-17-2 all-time in San Jose.
The Blue Jackets erased a 2-0 first period hole to take a 3-2 lead into the dressing room after 40 minutes.
Two of the goals came from top line center Ryan Johansen. First, he skated around Justin Braun and found a way to squeak a backhander through Antti Niemi at 8:22 of the middle frame, on a goal that probably should not have happened.
A shorthanded marker tied it. Despite Jack Skille going off for interference, the Blue Jackets finished off a rush as Letestu deked to his backhand to flip it in at 12:13.
Johansen gave Columbus its first lead at 13:36. Hartnell forced Tye McGinn into a turnover, and the puck ended up on Johansen’s stick in the circle. He flung it high over Niemi for his fifth goal of the season.
The recently re-signed Johansen leads the Blue Jackets with nine points, and has at least a point in all six games this season.
Adam Burish got things started. He breezed through the neutral zone around Adam Cracknell, and was given room in the offensive zone. He skated to the faceoff dot and picked the top corner over Bobrovsky’s shoulder at 5:11 for just his second goal in a Sharks sweater and first since March 5, 2013.
The top power play unit, which has looked deadly lately, made it 2-0. Couture’s blast was tipped by Pavelski in front of the net at 14:44.
Patrick Marleau earned the secondary assist on the goal, his 500th in the NHL and team-leading 10th point of the season.
Hartnell finished the night with four assists to lead all scorers.
Columbus had been a perfect 11-for-11 on the penalty kill before Pavelski’s first period marker. The Sharks have scored at least one power play goal in six of eight games this season, and finished 1-for-5.
The Blue Jackets were also 1-for-5, but failed to increase their one-goal lead late in the second period despite a four-minute power play after Brent Burns high-sticked Matt Calvert.
Letestu’s goal was the second shorthanded goal against the Sharks this season.
Andrew Desjardins and Jared Boll dropped the gloves less than three minutes into the game, in a fight that didn’t last long. Boll was fined in 2012 for a high hit on Thornton.
Niemi was making back-to-back starts for the first time this season as the Sharks alternated between Niemi and Alex Stalock in each of the first seven. He took the loss with 23 saves.
Bobrovsky improved to 4-2-0 with 33 saves.
Tye McGinn was re-inserted into the lineup in place of John Scott, and skated with Burish and Desjardins on the fourth line. Rookies Mirco Mueller and Chris Tierney were healthy scratches for the second straight game.
San Jose will play its third and final home game of the month of October on Saturday, in a rare afternoon start against Buffalo.
A three-game road trip starts Sunday with the first meeting of the year against Anaheim, and continues with stays in Colorado and Minnesota.