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."
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. 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. It was also their second straight loss after going 7-0-0.
Penguins 5, Hurricanes 3 in Raleigh, N.C. Beau Bennett and Evgeni Malkin scored 13 seconds apart in the third period, and Pittsburgh clinched the Atlantic Division title by beating free-falling Carolina.
Wild Minnesota left wing Dany Heatley will miss the rest of the season following surgery on his left shoulder.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.