On Monday, the Winnipeg Jets travelled to Toronto for the first of 10 regular season matchups with the Maple Leafs. Facing off in their first eastern time zone start of the season, the Jets came out of the gate a little slow and never seemed to fully recover. Be it the time change or the unfamiliarity of the former Eastern Conference opponent, Winnipeg will need to be better than it was in Monday’s 3-1 loss to Toronto.
Making his NHL debut on Monday was 22-year-old defenceman Logan Stanley, who drew into the lineup as Tucker Poolman was removed from Jets team activities and travel following his placement into COVID-19 protocol. Fellow defenceman Dylan DeMelo also did not make the trip out east following the recent birth of his newborn child.
Stanley – the 18th overall selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft – had a decent showing in the NHL city closest his hometown of Kitchener/Waterloo. He finished the game with three shots on goal and a hit in 11:19 total time on ice.
Joining Poolman and DeMelo as an inactive on Monday was Patrik Laine. The high-scoring winger tweaked himself in practice on Sunday, prior to heading to Toronto. He did not suit up on Monday, but rather took the game in from the press box. Filling in for Laine was Mathieu Perreault on the team’s second line, while Jansen Harkins moved into a fourth line role alongside Nate Thompson and Trevor Lewis.
The first period provided little on the offensive side of things, with both teams seemingly hesitant to make mistakes while attempting to create offence. The shots were even through 20 minutes at 10-10. Auston Matthews had the best scoring opportunity for the host, while Mark Scheifele had Winnipeg’s best scoring chance on a point-blank shot from the slot, which Frederik Andersen easily steered aside.
The middle stanza saw a total swing of the pendulum as Toronto pulled ahead with a heavy artillery of fire on Connor Hellebuyck. Led in large part by an early-period power play, to which the Leafs registered nine shots, a crossbar and a goal, the home team jumped ahead.
With Sami Niku in the box for holding, the Maple Leafs got to work. Needing 1:56 of the man advantage, Toronto finally struck. Just seconds after Auston Matthews rang a one-timer off the crossbar, William Nylander found Leafs captain John Tavares all alone in the slot, where the veteran forward ripped a quick shot dead centre of the net, past an out-of-position Hellebuyck.
Up 1-0 with a commanding shot lead in the frame, Toronto continued to pepper the Jets offensively for nearly the entire 20 minute period, earning the first 15 shots of the frame in jumping ahead 25-10. With 1:21 left to play in the period, Matthews led the Leafs’ charge up the ice and found a wide-open Justin Holl, who one-timed a point shot bomb that staggered Hellebuyck. The rebound fell on the stick of Mitch Marner, who put his second of the season into the Winnipeg net. The goal came on Toronto’s 22nd shot of the period.
However, just 34 seconds later, Kyle Connor made no mistake capitalizing on the Jets’ best scoring opportunity of the period. The young winger stepped into a snap shot from the slot, following a great setup play from defencemen Derek Forbort and Neal Pionk. Connor’s second goal of the season came on Winnipeg’s sixth shot of the period. After seeing the first period end 10-10, Toronto finished the second period by doubling up the Jets 32-16 in the shot department.
Despite an onslaught of offensive chances, the Jets were unable to score in the third period, ultimately giving up an empty net marker to Marner late in the game’s dying seconds, handing Toronto its third win of the season, while Winnipeg moved to 1-1-0. With the win Freddie Andersen improved his all-time record vs. Winnipeg to 10-0-2. And Hellebuyck, who put up his worst save percentage vs. any team last season with a .822 mark against Toronto, continued his losing ways against the Leafs. Despite the two second period tallies, Hellebuyck did perform well, considering.
Winnipeg went 0-4 on the power play Monday, while Toronto improved its penalty kill to 14 of 17 on the 2020-21 season. The final shots ended up 38-28 for the Leafs, with Hellebuyck making 35 saves and Andersen turning aside 27 pucks. Mitch Marner led the way offensively for both teams, picking up two goals, while all other point getters only produced a maximum of one point in the showing.
Monday’s game was the first of nine back-to-backs for the Jets, which travel to Ottawa Tuesday for the first of three-straight games against the Senators. Next up is a 6:00 PM central matchup with Ottawa on Tuesday, before doing it again on Thursday, also from Canadian Tire Arena in Kanata. The two teams will then fly to Manitoba, where they will engage in a late 9:00 PM battle at Bell MTS Place on Saturday.
Saturday’s game will be the first of a season-long seven-game homestand for Winnipeg. The upcoming contests on Tuesday and Thursday against Ottawa can be viewed live on TSN, while Saturday’s game will be available on Sportsnet.