After squandering another chance to gain ground on the Toronto Maple Leafs for first place in the North Division, the Winnipeg Jets now sit eight points back of top spot with nine games left on the schedule.
Winnipeg opened the scoring just seconds into the game but fell victim to a pair of brutal bounces that saw Toronto take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Nikolaj Ehlers scored the Jets’ lone goal in what turned out to be a 4-1 final.
It also marks three straight Jet losses for the first time in 2021.
Connor Hellebuyck took the loss for Winnipeg as his record falls to 21-13-3.
“It was just one of those nights you look back on to see where it went wrong,” said Hellebuyck.
“We didn’t have very good luck, off the station wasn’t great and the third one I lost an edge on a routine movement from me. Those are two game changing goals, but it is what it is.”
The loss sees Winnipeg’s record drop to 3-4-2 against the Leafs this season. Their only remaining game against Toronto comes in the team’s regular season finale on April 14.
Jack Campbell collected his 13th victory in 16 starts between the pipes for Toronto this year.
The Leaf netminder turned aside 25 shots in another stellar performance while starting goalie Fredrick Andersen recovers from a lower-body injury he suffered on March 19.
Just 39 seconds from the drop of the puck, Winnipeg struck early with Nikolaj Ehlers potting his 21st of the season.
Ehlers sent a perfectly placed Paul Stastny saucer pass into the net just a couple feet in front of Jack Campbell to put the home team on the scoresheet first.
It didn’t take long for the visitors to claw back with Toronto finding twine on just their second shot of the evening.
Jason Spezza banked the puck off the boards directly behind Hellebuyck and Joe Thornton was there to tuck it in on the partial wraparound. Winnipeg-born defenceman Adam Brooks picked up the secondary assist for his third point in the four games he’s suited up for this year.
Another behind-the-net dump in minutes later paid dividends for Toronto as Mitch Marner turned on the rocket skates, tapping the puck past a sprawling Hellebuyck.
The opportunity came courtesy of a Jake Muzzin dump-in that oddly hit a stanchion along the end boards and popped right into the slot for Marner’s 17th.
With just under a minute left in the first, emotions started overflowing early over as Kyle Connor began throwing punches at Rasmus Sandin in front of the Leafs’ nets.
Connor was given two minutes for roughing as the period ended with Toronto up by one.
“I liked the edge in the game, the barking in between benches and the refs. I thought that was the best part of the game,” said head coach Paul Maurice.
“Our heart rates were up, the language went right down the tubes. It was good,” Maurice continued.
Winnipeg killed off the second half of Connor’s penalty to begin the middle frame, but a lackluster start to the period led to a third Toronto tally.
During 4-on-4 action John Tavares took a William Nylander feed and fired it over the right pad of Hellebuyck in the midst of a two-on-one at the hands of Derek Forbort.
The goal came with Dylan Demelo in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct. Jake Muzzin was given a coincidental minor for interference during the same stoppage.
Despite two power play chances for Winnipeg and three for Toronto in the opening 40 minutes, neither team had anything to show for it.
The Leafs outshot the Jets 17-6 in the second period and took a 3-1 lead into the third.
Launching only nine third-period shots at Campbell, the Jets failed to mount any sort of late-game momentum. Alex Kerfoot added an empty netter with 1:30 left on the clock.
The 4-1 defeat sees Winnipeg drop to 27-17-3 on the season.
The Jets have two more games left at home before heading out on one last road trip, a short three-gamer.
The Edmonton Oilers will be guests at Bell MTS Place on Monday and Wednesday. Both tilts get going at 8 p.m. CT.
Paul Edmonds and Jamie Thomas will have the call on 680 CJOB with Kelly Moore going live two hours before each game for the Anchor Products pre-game show.