WINNIPEG - On the heels of one of the most punishing games of the season 24 hours earlier, the Winnipeg Jets found enough the reserves to give one of the top teams in the conference all they could handle, but it just wasn't enough to gut out a victory in a methodical, back-and-forth affair.
Patrick Marleau broke a 3-3 tie with 4:33 to play in the third as the San Jose Sharks, who trailed 3-2 earlier in the period, defeated the Jets 4-3.
Bryan Little scored twice, and Andrew Copp chipped in the other for Winnipeg, while Ondrej Pavelec made 22 saves.
Dustin Byfuglien had two assists.
The Jets trailed 1-0 and 2-1 before fighting back and grabbing their first lead on a Little goal at the four-minute mark, but Melker Karlsson tied it on a penalty shot just a few minutes later before Marleau put the Sharks back in front, and for good, as he finished off a cross-crease pass from Ryan Carpenter late.
The Jets came close to tying the game late - and, in fact, the puck did cross the goal line after a scramble in the blue paint - but the play had been blown dead before Byfuglien jammed it home with only 17 seconds left.
"We worked our tails off and just didn't get rewarded," Little said. "We battled hard and did everything you could ask for, but we made a couple mistakes against a good team and they made us pay."
The Jets will now head to Chicago to face the Blackhawks on Thursday before the NHL All-Star Break.
Here's where it all went sideways: Jacob Trouba made what appeared to be an excellent defensive play, making stick-on-stick contact in his pursuit of the speedy Sharks forward, but the referees thought otherwise.
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
"It wasn't a penalty," Maurice said, repeating it for good measure.
"It was a big moment."
The Jets looked destined to win after getting a goal early in the third, breaking a 2-2 deadlock, but the penalty shot proved to be the difference, despite the strong play from No. 18.
Little jumped on a loose puck between the hash marks and ripped a quick shot off the crossbar, straight down on the goal line before banking off the skate of Sharks goalie Aaron Dell and in to give the Jets their first lead of the night, but it didn't last.
Little now has 12 goals on the year, including five (and seven points) in his last four games.
"That was a turning point in the third," Little said of the penalty shot. "I thought it was a great defensive play, and a play that happens often. What can you do?"
Video: SJS@WPG: Little roofs rebound from inside the slot
It was a 1-1 game with the shots favouring the Jets, 9-8, after one, and 2-2 with the shots 19-15 in Winnipeg's favour after 40 minutes.
The Sharks took a 2-1 lead just 27 seconds into the middle frame. A bad bounce on a rim off the corner boards popped out to Mikkel Boedker, who fed a pass over to Logan Couture on a short 2-on-1. Couture made no mistake, gunning a shot low, stick side, after driving hard to the blue paint.
"They play a puck possession game," defenceman Josh Morrissey said. "Their strength is getting that cycle game going in the offensive zone. They get a lot of motion and have big guys that can protect the puck, and guys that have played together for a long time and have that chemistry, but I thought we did a pretty good job of handling that.
"It's disappointing. We (didn't) want to lose two games in a row here, but our effort was in the right spot."
The Jets battled back, carried the play and ultimately tied the game for a second time with only 1:59 to play after outshooting the Sharks 10-7 in the middle 20. Off the rush, Blake Wheeler dished off to the open side at the right circle, giving Copp all kinds of time to step into it after assessing his options. He did just that, launching the puck with a wicked slapper short side, bar down, for No. 7 on the year and his third in the past four games.
Copp started the game on a line with Wheeler and Little, but Mark Scheifele took over on that unit after a tepid opening frame.
Video: SJS@WPG: Copp goes bar-down over Dell's shoulder
Eleven of Copp's 14 career goals have come in the last 46 games, which equates to a 20-goal pace over a full season.
Brent Burns opened the scoring for the Sharks with a power-play goal at 3:59 of the first period. Back-to-back Winnipeg penalties (Nic Petan for hooking, and a bench minor for too many men), gave the visitors a 1:24-long 5-on-3, and the Norris frontrunner wasted little time scoring his team-leading 21st of the year.
Logan Couture put the puck on a tee, and Burns unloaded from the top of the left circle, beating Pavelec over the blocker to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead.
The Jets went to work offensively after killing off the remainder of the penalty, tying the game on their fourth shot after catching the Sharks on a bad change.
Little accelerated through the neutral zone and took a beautiful Josh Morrissey pass in alone, fighting off the check of Joel Ward before making a move to the backhand and stuffing it home at 8:02.
LATE HITS: Toby Enstrom left the game in the second period and did not return with an upper-body injury. Enstrom caught an edge and fell awkwardly into the sideboards after attempting to keep the puck in at the offensive blue line.
"He was allowed to come back, but soon after he didn't feel too good," Maurice said.
"On back-to-back (nights) it hurts. You start to run five games and last night was very physical for our defence. Toby's a big minute guy, so you end up running all the [other] guys pretty hard."
Video: POSTGAME | Patrik Laine
Patrik Laine made his return to the lineup after missing eight games with a concussion. The rookie finished with one assist in 21:52 of ice time.
"Good first game back," Maurice said. "It was good to have him back."
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com