A back-and-forth battle between the Winnipeg Jets and the Toronto Maple Leafs ended with the league’s leading goal-scorer doing what he does best.
Auston Matthews’ 21st goal of the year 59 seconds into overtime gave the Leafs a 4-3 win over the Jets Thursday night.
It ended a three-game losing skid for Toronto – their longest of the season.
The Leafs’ victory spoiled another marvelous performance by Connor Hellebuyck who just about stole another win for the Jets.
“It kinda stinks,” said Hellebuyck. “But we did some good things and we have some things to improve on. Me, personally, I thought I stole a lot of goals tonight.”
The single point for the Jets was at least a moral victory. After taking the lead to the third period, the Jets surrendered a pair of goals in the final frame to trail by one. But Paul Stastny scored the game tying goal with the goalie pulled for the extra attacker late in regulation time.
“Small victory,” said Hellebuyck. “But obviously in this league we want to win. We’re not cherishing the point, but better than not getting one.”
Hellebuyck made a number of unbelievable saves, including three separate breakaways. He finished the night with 34 saves in the loss.
“Our goalie was outstanding,” Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. “There’s no question. That should be the storyline. He stood on his head for us tonight. But we also have a locker room full of guys that played their ass off too.
“I don’t think Toronto is talking in the media that it was a cake walk playing us tonight. I think we played our tails off, and when we needed Helly (Hellebuyck), he certainly stood up to the task.”
Nikolaj Ehlers had a huge night for the Jets, picking up two goals and an assist. He now has a team-leading 13 goals on the season. But after the game he was more upset about being on the ice for three of the Leafs’ goals against.
“Bucky (Hellebuyck) played a hell of a game,” Ehlers said. “He was absolutely unreal again tonight, but yeah, sucks right now.
“And defensively we weren’t strong enough. We were on the ice for all three of those goals, and that sucks.”
The Leafs outshot the Jets 38-27.
With two points the Leafs (19-7-2) extended their lead in the North Division over the Jets (16-8-2) to six points.
The single point moved the Jets into a tie for second place in the division with the Edmonton Oilers.
Ehlers scored the game’s opening goal in the first period and then after Mitch Marner tied it for the Leafs in the second, Ehlers struck again converting a two-on-one pass from Kyle Connor.
The Leafs battled back to take the lead with goals from William Nylander and Ilya Mikheyev in the third, but it was the veteran Stastny scoring his eighth of the year for the Jets with 2:26 left in regulation to force OT.
Matthews roofed the puck on Hellebuyck on a 2-on-1 in overtime to secure the victory for Toronto.
After Nathan Beaulieu was placed on injured reserve with a hand injury, Logan Stanley played his first game in almost a month. Stanley logged a little over 11 minutes of ice time in his first game back.
The Jets and the Leafs finish off their three-game set Saturday night with the pregame show on 680 CJOB at 4 p.m., followed by puck drop shortly after 6 p.m.