No comeback in the cards this time as Winnipeg Jets fall short to Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs handed the Winnipeg Jets their first regulation loss of the homestand.
The Leafs defeated the Jets 4-2 on Wednesday at Bell MTS Place in one of the most anticipated match-ups of the young season. The game was being billed as Auston Matthews vs Patrik Laine but both players were kept off the scoresheet completely.
In what has become commonplace for the Jets this season, they got off to another slow start, falling behind by three goals early. They battled back in the third period to make it a one goal game but then John Tavares scored to end any chance of another comeback.
“I’m more concerned about our defending than anything else,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said.
“Anything that we had clean that we could look at, we missed the net 11 times in the second period. That keeps you from feeling good about your offensive game, but it’s more the defensive plays, the turnovers in our end of the ice.”
Toronto picked up a victory for the first time in three games. The Leafs had goals from Tavares, Kasperi Kapanen, Tyler Ennis, and Nazem Kadri.
“They did a lot of flipping pucks and look for bounces,” Adam Lowry said. “They were able to create off those kind of neutral zone bobbled pucks. They’re in on the forecheck and they create some zone pressure and you don’t have any clean breakouts.”
Nikolaj Ehlers and Mark Scheifele scored for the Jets in the loss while Blake Wheeler recorded a pair of assists. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 35 shots.
The loss ended both the Jets’ three game win streak, and also their streak of five straight games with at least a point, but Ehlers finally snapped out of his slump. His third period goal ended a stretch of 26 straight games without scoring dating all the way back to April 3.
“When you don’t score, it sucks,” Ehlers said.
“So getting that one and getting the boys in the right direction and fired up was definitely nice.”
Frederik Andersen made 38 saves for the Maple Leafs as Winnipeg edged Toronto in shots 40-39.
The two teams came out flying in a fast paced first period. Both teams had their chances early on but it wasn’t until the 14 minute mark when the Leafs opened the scoring. Hellebuyck made two saves but on the Leafs third opportunity, Kapanen fired it in from the slot. His fifth goal of the season was unassisted and Toronto had the lead after 20 minutes. The shots were 18-14 in favour of Toronto.
The Leafs added to their lead a little over two minutes into the middle stanza. Josh Leivo threw the point shot towards the net and Ennis tipped it over Hellebuyck for his first goal of the season. The even strength marker had Toronto ahead by a pair.
The Leafs scored a third straight goal with 8:17 remaining in the period. Connor Brown passed the puck off the boards ahead to Kadri at full speed and he beat Hellebuyck short side over his trapper. Kadri’s first of the campaign was assisted by Brown and Nikita Zaitsev and it was a three goal lead.
The Leafs dominated the period holding the Jets to just four shots on goal.
Like in previous games the Jets came alive to start the third period though. Ehlers was moved up to the top line to start the final frame and he quickly buried a pass from Jacob Trouba for his first goal of the season. Immediately after scoring his first goal since April, he made a motion as if to pull a monkey off his back. Wheeler also had an assist and the Jets were within two.
Less than two minutes later the Jets inched closer on the powerplay. Wheeler spotted Scheifele in his usual spot in the faceoff circle and he sent in the one-timer. Kyle Connor had the other assist and it was 3-2.
But the Leafs restored the two-goal lead soon after. Mitch Marner made a nifty move to beat Dustin Byfuglien. He was stopped by Hellebuyck but Tavares was right there to pop in the rebound. Par Lindholm had the other assist on Tavares’ seventh goal of the year and that would close out the scoring.
The Jets made one lineup change from their previous game as Dmitry Kulikov replaced Joe Morrow on defence. Morrow and Nic Petan were both scratched.
The Jets play their next four games away from Bell MTS Place starting Friday in Detroit. Then it’s the rematch with the Maple Leafs on Saturday before heading over to Finland for two games against the Florida Panthers as part of the NHL Global Series.
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