When the Vancouver Canucks look back at what went wrong this season, late collapses will be front and centre.

Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl scored 2:28 apart in the third period Sunday as the San Jose Sharks downed Vancouver 4-1 to hand the Canucks their 10th loss in a game they led after 40 minutes.

"We did play decent for two periods, but like a lot of times this season ... in the third it's kind of like a different team goes out there," said Vancouver defenceman Luca Sbisa. "It's a disappointing feeling."

Patrick Marleau and Justin Braun, into an empty net, had the other goals for the Sharks (33-22-6), while Martin Jones made 23 saves. Marc-Edouard Vlasic added two assists, with Pavelski and Braun picking up one each.

"We knew the importance of the game and I thought we were OK for the most part," said Jones. "We just didn't have a lot of jump and we kind of gave away a lot of pucks when we had full control, but in the third we really stepped it up."

Daniel Sedin replied for the Canucks (24-25-12), who were looking for their first three-game winning streak of the season. Ryan Miller made 24 saves as Vancouver fell to an NHL-worst 14-3-7 when leading after two periods.

"That shouldn't happen," said Sedin. "I don't want to say it's because we have a young team. We can do it for most parts of the game."

Canucks fading

San Jose sits third in the Pacific Division, 12 points up on the fading Canucks, who are eight back of the Colorado Avalanche for the Western Conference's second wild-card spot.

"Times like this, every game for us is a Game 7," said Sbisa. "It's a must-win if you want to stay in the (playoff) race."

Trailing 1-0 after the second intermission, the Sharks tied things at 4:21 of the third when Pavelski stepped around Sbisa before beating Miller for his 27th of the season.

San Jose then grabbed the lead at 6:49 when Hertl tipped Braun's point shot for his 15th.

"If you have a lead, teams are hungry," said Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins. "It seems like we're just not quite able to hold it."

Vancouver's Adam Cracknell rang a shot off the iron behind Jones a couple of minutes later, but San Jose sealed it when Marleau ripped a one-timer on a 5-on-3 power play with 5:51 left for his 18th.

Braun added his second into the empty net with just over a minute to go.

"I don't think we were happy with our game [through two periods]," said Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. "Credit to Vancouver. I thought they played a really good first 40 minutes. They bottled us up. We didn't have a lot of energy, we weren't creating much.

"We just talked about the importance of these two points. We didn't want to give them any life in the standings."