COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The Columbus Blue Jackets aren't playing for a playoff spot. They want one next year, though.
"It's a lot easier to come, show up and go through the motions but we're playing for something," Nash said. "It was a slow start this year but we're trying to build a lot of momentum right now and gain some chemistry for the start of next season."
Columbus won its third in a row, and at 29-40-3 matched the 2002-2003 team's victory total (29-42-8-3).
"It's nice, but we should have 40 or 45 wins," coach Gerard Gallant said. "We're a better team than 29 wins. We're going to battle for a playoff spot soon."
Mark Hartigan broke a scoring drought with his second goal, and Manny Malhotra added an empty-netter to stretch his goal streak to three games. David Vyborny had two assists.
Steve Bernier had the goal for San Jose.
The loss was costly for the Sharks, who came into the final game of a five-game road trip needing a win to tie Vancouver for eighth place in the Western Conference. The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs.
"We're playing desperate teams every night this time of year," said Columbus goaltender Marc Denis, who had 28 saves. "It is a measuring stick. We're working on putting down the blueprint for next season. To get to where we want to be, this is how we have to play. I think we're starting to understand that now."
The Sharks led 1-0 before the Blue Jackets scored late in the second period and added three goals in the third. Columbus has come from behind to earn points in 12 games since Jan. 1.
The Blue Jackets fought off five San Jose power plays - and had none of their own - before breaking through.
With the score tied at 1 in the third period, the Blue Jackets had a 5-on-3 after Josh Gorges was called for holding the stick and Alyn McCauley was whistled for delay of game when he flipped the puck over the glass trying to clear it 13 seconds later.
Nash was near the right goal line when he tossed the puck at the net. It ricocheted off defenseman Scott Hannan and past surprised goalie Vesa Toskala for Nash's second of the night and 24th of the season.
One second after the second penalty ended, Columbus defenseman Duvie Westcott's shot from the right point was redirected off the shaft of Hartigan's stick for his first goal in 19 games and second of the season.
"It's been a long time coming," Hartigan said. "Duvie had a great shot on net and I managed to get a piece of it."
Bernier scored his 10th unassisted midway through the opening period. From a tangle in the corner, he ended up with the puck in the high slot while Patrick Marleau skated in front of Denis. Bernier's shot slipped under the attempted block of Adam Foote and slid between Denis' pads.
The Sharks, 12th in the NHL in road power play, failed to score on five opportunities in the first two periods.
The Blue Jackets tied it with just over a minute left in the second period. Aaron Johnson threw the puck on net from close to the blue line at the left boards, with Toskala - this week's NHL defensive player of the week - giving up a short rebound. Nash reached out as far as he could while in the slot to corral the puck and backhand it into the net.
"It was a play where we could have gotten the puck and we didn't," San Jose coach Ron Wilson said. "We were casual and they made us pay for it. We talked about that between the second and the third periods. We just gave them life."
Notes: Nash has nine points, including five goals, in seven games. ... Toskala came in at 7-0-1 in his last eight starts and had lost only once in regulation in 14 games. ... Nash has never had a three-goal game. He has had 10 two-game games and 30 multipoint games.
|Steve Bernier (10) ASST: NONE|
1 - 0 SJS
|Rick Nash (23) ASST: Aaron Johnson (3), David Vyborny (35)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Rick Nash (24) ASST: Sergei Fedorov (27), David Vyborny (36)|
2 - 1 CBJ
|Mark Hartigan (2) ASST: Duvie Westcott (20), Ron Hainsey (15)|
3 - 1 CBJ
|EN - Manny Malhotra (7) ASST: Rostislav Klesla (11)|
4 - 1 CBJ
|Power Play %||21.6%||21.7%|
|% on Road||19.5%||21.5%|
|% at Home||23.8%||22.0%|
|Jason Chimera Hi-sticking against Jonathan Cheechoo|
|Ron Hainsey Holding|
|Sergei Fedorov Hooking against Christian Ehrhoff|
|Rostislav Klesla Hooking against Patrick Marleau|
|Sergei Fedorov Holding|
|Josh Gorges Holding the stick against Rick Nash|
|Alyn McCauley Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Rostislav Klesla Hooking|
|Patrick Rissmiller Interference against Manny Malhotra|