VANCOUVER — When the Vancouver Canucks look back at what went wrong this season, late collapses will be front and centre.
“We did play decent for two periods, but like a lot of times this season … in the third it’s kind of like a different team goes out there,” said Vancouver defenceman Luca Sbisa. “It’s a disappointing feeling.”
Patrick Marleau and Justin Braun, into an empty net, had the other goals for the Sharks (33-22-6), while Martin Jones made 23 saves. Marc-Edouard Vlasic added two assists, with Pavelski and Braun picking up one each.
“We knew the importance of the game and I thought we were OK for the most part,” said Jones. “We just didn’t have a lot of jump and we kind of gave away a lot of pucks when we had full control, but in the third we really stepped it up.”
Daniel Sedin replied for the Canucks (24-25-12), who were looking for their first three-game winning streak of the season. Ryan Miller made 24 saves as Vancouver fell to an NHL-worst 14-3-7 when leading after two periods.
“That shouldn’t happen,” said Sedin. “I don’t want to say it’s because we have a young team. We can do it for most parts of the game.”
San Jose sits third in the Pacific Division, 12 points up on the fading Canucks, who are eight back of the Colorado Avalanche for the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot.
“Times like this, every game for us is a Game 7,” said Sbisa. “It’s a must-win if you want to stay in the (playoff) race.”
Trailing 1-0 after the second intermission, the Sharks tied things at 4:21 of the third when Pavelski stepped around Sbisa before beating Miller for his 27th of the season.
San Jose then grabbed the lead at 6:49 when Hertl tipped Braun’s point shot for his 15th.
“If you have a lead, teams are hungry,” said Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins. “It seems like we’re just not quite able to hold it.”
Vancouver’s Adam Cracknell rang a shot off the iron behind Jones a couple of minutes later, but San Jose sealed it when Marleau ripped a one-timer on a 5-on-3 power play with 5:51 left for his 18th.
Braun added his second into the empty net with just over a minute to go.
“I don’t think we were happy with our game (through two periods),” said Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. “Credit to Vancouver. I thought they played a really good first 40 minutes. They bottled us up. We didn’t have a lot of energy, we weren’t creating much.
“We just talked about the importance of these two points. We didn’t want to give them any life in the standings.”
After a scoreless first, Vancouver opened the scoring at 3:03 of the second moments after a Sharks penalty expired when Sedin jammed a puck past Jones from the side of the net for his 23rd.
In a scheduling quirk, Sunday’s game was the first between the Sharks and Canucks this season. The clubs play again Thursday in Vancouver and Saturday in San Jose before another back-to-back on March 29 and March 31.
With the NHL trade deadline set for Monday at 3 p.m. ET, veteran defenceman Dan Hamhuis suited up in what could have been his final game for the Canucks. The 33-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and has a no-movement clause in his contract, but has indicated he would consider a move if it was the right situation.
“The time I’ve been here we’ve been buyers or trying to stick with our team,” said Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin. “It’s strange to go through this, but we have to be professionals.”
NOTES: The Canucks have won two games in a row seven times this season. … Canucks forward Radim Vrbata, who is also set to become an unrestricted free agent and could be moved at the deadline, missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. … San Jose hosts the Montreal Canadiens on Monday, while Vancouver continues a five-game homestand on Tuesday against the New York Islanders.