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Niemi makes 24 saves in Sharks' shutout win over Jets

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The Canadian Press
1/13/2012 1:12:45 AM
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WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel is worried about his team's mental state.

The Jets took a pounding on the ice and in their psyches in a 2-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, Winnipeg's fourth loss in five games.

"For me, it's going to be more about dealing with the morale of our team," Noel said of the Jets (20-18-5). "The team isn't going to be feeling very good right now and that's probably one of more of the issues we're going to have to deal with."

Logan Couture and Brad Winchester scored for the Sharks (24-11-5) as Antti Niemi claimed his second shutout of the season with 24 saves.

Winnipeg's players were down on themselves for the effort they gave in the loss.

Goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who faced 37 shots, said they "didn't deserve to win."

"It was a tough game tonight against a very good team," said Pavelec. "They did everything to win the game."

Jets captain Andrew Ladd said it's time to learn from their mistakes.

"How many times have we stressed about getting pucks deep and making sure that we're doing those smart things and how many turnovers did we have tonight? Way too many," Ladd said. "At some point we gotta figure out if we want to be a playoff team or if we're just content with being this win one here, win one there.

"Personally, I'm sick of having these little stretches."

Forward Nik Antropov said the Sharks' skaters and Niemi played well, but he and his teammates didn't do enough to help themselves.

"(San Jose) played a good game, but it's up to us," said Antropov. "I don't think we pushed hard enough. The third period was just unacceptable. It was a flat period, nothing was going on.

"We've got to blame ourselves, nobody else."

The Sharks have won five of their last six games.

Couture scored for the second straight game, his 18th goal of the season to give him 31 points.

His goal came at 13:36 of the second period, but it was the skilled work of defenceman Brent Burns that made it happen.

Burns picked the puck up outside his blue-line, bounced the puck off the boards ahead of himself and then took control of it again.

Just as it looked like he was going to go around the back of the net, Burns sent a quick backhand pass to Couture, who snapped the puck into the net while Pavelec was out of position.

Burns was modest about his flashy play.

"I got a little bounce off the glass there," he said. "Just got the forecheck going.

"With the way the breakout happened, the forecheck kind of stuck because I lugged it up and so, kind of just the way it happened."

Niemi was impressed as he watched the play unfold.

"(Burns has) got the speed and he saw there's a chance to go all the way and he was able to make a good pass," Niemi said.

Although he earned his shutout without facing a lot of shots, the netminder praised the players in front of him.

"There were some shots, but I think we played a very, very good game in front of our net," he said. "We were able to get the rebounds and not let them come too close to the net."

Winchester got his stick on a bouncing puck for his fifth goal of the season.

Both teams were 0-for-2 on the power play.

Notes: The Sharks are 17-1-3 when leading after the second period, while the Jets are 0-14-2 when trailing after two ... Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, named to the 2012 NHL all-star team, missed his eighth game with a knee injury. Fellow blue-liner Zach Bogosian was out with a lower-body injury he suffered in Tuesday's loss to Boston.

Antti Niemi (Photo: Marianne Helm/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
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