Even the return of Patrik Laine wasn’t enough to push the Winnipeg Jets over the top Tuesday night.

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Even the return of Patrik Laine wasn’t enough to push the Winnipeg Jets over the top Tuesday night.

The Jets dropped a bitterly contested 4-3 decision to the San Jose Sharks at the MTS Centre — punctuated by a controversial call that led to the tying goal on a third-period penalty shot for the visitors and a disallowed goal by the hosts with 17 seconds left in regulation.

The fabulous Finnish rookie, back in the Jets lineup after missing eight games due to a concussion, looked and felt like he was starting over.

"It’s always hard," said Laine, who drew an assist, had three shots on goal in 21:35 of ice time and allowed Patrick Marleau to elude him while backchecking on San Jose’s winning goal with less than five minutes remaining.

"It’s so much different to just do some bike workout and then come to the game. It’s so different, even though you’ve been skating by yourself or a couple times with the team. It’s always hard. Just keep up the pace. It’s a fast game and (you) just have to be on your game all of the time."

Marleau’s goal was his fifth in two games and the 498th of his NHL career.

Winnipeg nearly forced overtime in the dying seconds when the puck crossed the goal line behind Sharks goalie Aaron Dell during a scrum and the Jets operating with the aid of an extra attacker.

Officials waved the goal off immediately, and a review by the league office confirmed their call.

The explanation?

"The referee blew the whistle, and the league said it wouldn’t have been a goal anyway," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice.

Naturally, the Sharks had the opposite view.

"I thought it was under me, I couldn’t really tell," said Dell, who finished with 31 saves.

"Either way, I got pushed all the way into the net. So I’m thinking that’s the right call there."

"I didn’t have a good view of it, but it looked like the puck was just... I mean he had it for half a second, which they usually let you keep playing, and we stuffed it in the net," said Jets centre Bryan Little. "But that’s the way it goes sometimes, those calls go against you."

League MVP candidate Brent Burns got the Sharks off to a quick start, blasting a one-timer past Ondrej Pavelec at 3:59 of the opening period during a 5-on-3 power play.

Burns’ 21st goal of the season came on San Jose’s second shot of the game, repeating a pattern from Pavelec’s three previous starts in which he allowed goals on the first, third and fourth shots of the game, respectively.

But there would be no panic from the host side.

Little tied the game in the second, zipping into the offensive zone after a sensational feed from Josh Morrissey and fighting off the check of Joel Ward before beating Dell.

Logan Couture gave the visitors an early 2-1 lead in the middle frame, with Andrew Copp tying the game 2-2 at 18:01. It was Copp’s third goal in four games and his seventh of the season, matching his total for the entire 2015-16 season.

Little was at it again in the third, potting his 12th goal in 28 games this season to give the Jets their first lead with a shot he caromed off the crossbar, then Dell’s back and into the net.

Then came perhaps the pivotal sequence of the game.

Melker Karlsson pulled the Sharks even 3-3, ripping a shot past Pavelec on a penalty shot at 9:37 of the third. Jets blue-liner Jacob Trouba was judged to have fouled Karlsson from behind on a short-handed breakaway.

"It’s not a penalty," said Maurice, whose Jets fell to 22-25-4 and head out on the road to play the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday before the NHL all-star break.

"That was kind of a turning point in the third. It was a great defensive play and a play that happens often," said Little.

"I mean, what can you do. He called it a penalty shot, and you can’t change it now. I had no problem with the play. It was a great defensive play."

Pavelec, who started his fourth consecutive game since being recalled from the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, made 22 saves and is 2-2-0.

"I think we had our chances," said Trouba. "We probably gave up a little too much. (We) left Pav out to dry a couple of times. I think just the battle down low, they’re big and strong down low and can really cycle the puck. Just intercepting those pucks on the wall and not letting them spend too much time down there.

"I thought we could’ve done a better job of coming off the last game we played against them."

Noteworthy

Winnipeg’s injury woes continued Tuesday.

Defenceman Toby Enstrom lost his balance and crashed awkwardly into the boards during the first period. He left the game and returned briefly before calling it a night.

He was believed to have suffered an upper-body injury and will be re-evaluated today.

Meanwhile, forward Mathieu Perreault is sidelined again — this time courtesy of a wicked slash on his left hand Monday night from Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry. Perry was not penalized on the play.

Perreault missed 14 games earlier this season with a lower-body ailment.

"No, he won’t play before the (all-star) break, and I don’t have a time frame for you," said Maurice.

The news on winger Drew Stafford, who was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Jan. 21 with a lower-body injury, was more encouraging.

"We’re hopeful after the break he’ll be fairly close," said Maurice. "We don’t think this is a long-term injury."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @sawa14