COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Joe Thornton went off script Tuesday night.
Shortly after the Sharks embarrassed themselves at Nationwide Arena for the second time this season by dropping a 4-0 decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the San Jose captain -- who acknowledges he normally looks for positives even in defeat -- placed responsibility for the loss on his own shoulders.
"Tough night for our line and we've got to be better," Thornton said. "Speaking for my personal game, I've got to tighten up and get better. If I do that, the other guys will follow."
Thornton's limited ice time shows his coach agreed. Thornton played a season-low 10:30, with only 2:31 of that coming in the third period. Linemates Brent Burns and Marty Havlat did not fare much better.
"There are situations that he has to be better in and I'm glad that he took that responsibility," coach Todd McLellan said of Thornton. "He's the leader, everybody follows. It starts with him, but there are other guys as well."
Columbus goals by Matt Calvert, James Wisniewski, Ryan Johansen and Marian Gaborik chased goalie Antti Niemi to the bench before the midpoint of the third period. Meanwhile, Blue Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky stopped each of the 30 shots he faced.
The loss to Columbus, which has its sights set on what would be only the second playoff appearance in franchise history, was the first time in nine games that the Sharks didn't pick up at least one point. But it was also their second consecutive defeat after going 7-0-0.
San Jose's previous game at Nationwide Arena was memorable for all the wrong reasons as well, a 6-2 spanking in which the Sharks were outworked all night. Things weren't much better this time.
"We skated in sand, but even worse, we probably had our heads in the sand, too. That's a bad combination," McLellan said. "We had the intensity of maybe an exhibition game and it's April. That's sad."
Columbus notched the only goal of the first period when it appeared the Blue Jackets had iced the puck, but play continued. Niemi stopped a wraparound attempt, but the rebound popped to Calvert who had plenty of open net in front of him at 8:39.
But the Blue Jackets broke the game open in the second period with two goals in a span of just under two minutes. Wisniewski fired a shot from the blue line past Niemi at 3:09 and Johansen took a pass from Gaborik in the slot and scored at 5:05 when Thornton pursued the puck instead of playing his man, the goal scorer.
"We should be able to kill those type of plays in our sleep by now," McLellan said of that third goal. "We've practiced it and worked on it long enough now, a sort-out coming into our zone."
Gaborik scored at 7:16 of the third period to make it 4-0 and end Niemi's night. McLellan said he made the move to get backup Thomas Greiss some much needed action as Greiss hadn't played since a March 6 injury.
Adam Burish appeared to score for the Sharks with 5:16 left in the game, but the officials waved it off, telling McLellan that Burish interfered with Bobrovsky though replays did not appear to support that position.
Sharks (20-12-7) at Detroit (19-15-5), 4:30 p.m. CSNCA