With less than 30 seconds left in the third period, the Blue Jackets had enough time to show their resiliency once again.
"There's a lot of things that happened in this game that remind me a lot of really what this team is," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "Last year, I think part of the identity was a resilient group. Tonight was a resilient win. Finding the game, finding our game, getting back into it, getting the lead. You give up a lead, it can be demoralizing where you shut down, especially in this building against a really good hockey team."
"We made too many mistakes that ended up in the back of our net," Couture said. "That last goal was a mistake on coverage. We've had some spurts, but the mistakes we made we've gone over for years. They're mental mistakes we need to fix."
Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made 33 saves. Niemi made 23.
The Blue Jackets thought they had regained the lead with 1:18 left when Johansen ripped a shot past Niemi for an apparent career-first hat trick, but the goal was waved off for goaltender interference.
"I came in and looked at it, and I see it completely different than how [the referee] saw it," Richards said. "Our guy was off to the side. He wasn't interfering with the goalie. It was their own guy who was on top of the goalie."
Instead of becoming discouraged, the Blue Jackets remained focused and opened their daunting three-game West Coast trip with a victory.
"We stuck with it," Foligno said. "There was a chance to lose focus there, maybe redirect it to the referees for whatever we thought was some sort of injustice. But the guys stuck with it. We got the win."
The Sharks, who opened a two-game homestand after a five-game East Coast road trip, got another disheartening loss.
"You give up five (goals), you aren't winning," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Our defensive play right now is killing us."
The Sharks came out strong, outshooting the Blue Jackets 16-5 in the first period, when they built a 2-0 lead on goals by Burish and Pavelski.
Columbus roared back in the second period to take a 3-2 lead. Johansen scored two goals, and Letestu had one. The Blue Jackets scored three times in a span of 5:14, connecting on three straight shots.
"We haven't been good enough," Pavelski said. "It [stinks] losing. No one is happy in here. It's got to get better. We'll get through it. Bottom line, with leads like that, we can't give them up. Multiple leads. It's not just one guy."
The Sharks pulled even 2:05 into the third period on Pavelski's second goal of the game and fourth of the season. He took a pass from Joe Thornton in the right circle and ripped a shot to the far side past Bobrovsky.
Couture gave San Jose a 4-3 lead at 8:23 of the third, intercepting a cross-ice pass from defenseman Cody Goloubef deep in the Columbus zone and beating Bobrovsky from close range. Goloubef, playing his first game of the season, tracked down the puck but tried to feed it across the slot to Fedor Tyutin, and Couture made the Blue Jackets pay for his mistake.
"We weren't happy with our start," Letestu said. "We thought they won a lot of races, won a lot of battles. We knew we had to turn that around if we wanted a chance to win. I thought we did a great job battling back. Unfortunately we lost the lead, but the guys had a never-say-die (attitude); they kept battling back, staying with the plan. Tonight, thankfully, we got rewarded for it."
The Sharks grabbed a 1-0 lead when Burish, their fourth-line center, scored his first goal of the season 5:11 into the game. Burish took a pass in the neutral zone from Jason Demers, raced down the left boards and wristed a shot from the circle over Bobrovsky's left shoulder.
Burish's goal was his second in 69 games with the Sharks and snapped a 47-game goalless streak. It was the second goal of the season produced by San Jose's fourth line; John Scott scored the first Oct. 14 against the Washington Capitals.
The Sharks made it 2-0 on Pavelski's' power-play goal at 10:44 of the first period. Couture ripped a shot from the point, and Pavelski, planted in front of the net, tipped it under Bobrovsky's pads. Couture earned his fourth assist, and Patrick Marleau got his sixth assist, the 500th of his career, on the goal.
The Blue Jackets had gone 11-for-11 on the penalty kill this season before Pavelski scored.
Johansen cut the Sharks lead to 2-1 at 8:22 of the second, skating past defenseman Justin Braun and lifting a sharp-angled, backhand shot over Niemi's right shoulder, just under the crossbar.
"Joey's goal was big, but the shorthanded goal really provided a great spark for us," Richards said.