The Winnipeg Jets concluded a three-game mini-series from Toronto on Saturday evening. With the two teams exchanging 4-3 victories on Tuesday and Thursday, both the Jets and Leafs were looking for the ‘series win’ in the battle on CBC from Scotiabank Arena.
A disallowed first period goal and four second period markers dictated much of the action in the North Division matchup, before a Winnipeg offensive explosion late in the third. Proving their worth against the division’s top team, the Jets took five of a possible six points in the three-game set, by way of a 5-2 victory Saturday evening.
The Leafs found the score sheet just 1:30 into the opening period on a beautifully placed shot by Pierre Engvall. Beating Laurent Brossoit top corner, Engvall’s shot burst the Gatorade bottle hanging from the net, sending a fountain of water skyward. But upon further review, Jets head coach Paul Maurice challenged that there should have been a stoppage in play prior to the Engvall marker, indicating that of a hand pass. The linesmen reviewed the footage and sure enough, the goal was overturned.
Winnipeg’s best chance came late in the period on a two-on-one involving Mason Appleton and Andrew Copp. A fluttering puck landed on the stick of Appleton, who turned up ice and fed Copp cross-ice. Freddie Andersen made it across the crease in time to turn aside the best opportunity of the frame.
The period ended with the teams deadlocked at seven shots apiece, while posting zeros on the scoreboard.
The middle stanza was much different than the first 20 minutes, at least in terms of goal scoring. Just 1:41 into the frame, Appleton picked up his career-high eighth goal of the season on a redirection that found its way past Andersen. With Appleton hanging wide to his right, Adam Lowry drew a defending Zach Bogosian to him before firing the puck towards the net. It hit Bogosian’s skate and redirected off the skate of Appleton and past Andersen into the Leafs’ net.
That Winnipeg lead did not last long, however, as Jake Muzzin tied the game at ones just 5:03 into the period. With Travis Dermott in the box for slashing Blake Wheeler, Toronto actually struck whilst shorthanded. A bobbled puck by Paul Stastny led to a three-on-one up ice. Mitch Marner dropped the puck to Muzzin, who ripped a wrist shot high, short side past Brossoit for the first legal Leafs goal of the game.
2:09 later, William Nylander picked up a puck in the neutral zone on a chip play from the bench, and walked in and beat Brossoit far side on a play that the Jets’ backup definitely wanted back. Nylander’s quick strike easily restored Toronto’s lead after earlier falling behind in the frame.
But following the pattern of the high-scoring period, Winnipeg knotted it up once again. This time, Paul Stastny atoned for his earlier blunder at the blueline and redirected a long-range Mark Scheifele point shot past Andersen. On the verge of being a high stick, the veteran forward deflected the high shot down past Andersen’s trapper, bringing the score to 2-2 on his ninth of the season and sixth goal in his past nine games.
Although a slew of three straight penalties between the two teams left Toronto with a four-on-three power play late in the period, and despite some strong efforts by Auston Matthews and Co., the Leafs were unable to strike with the slight man advantage. Through 40 minutes of play, the Jets held a slim 20-16 lead in the shots department.
7:39 into the third Winnipeg struck for its second lead of the game. A long dump in was misplayed by Andersen, who left he puck for Appleton. The youngster found a wide-open Adam Lowry on the doorstep, who shovelled one into the open net, putting the visitors up 3-2, on Lowry’s first goal in 20 games.
Then, with Morgan Rielly in the box for interfering Nikolaj Ehlers, the recipient of the infraction once again capitalized for Winnipeg on the ensuing man advantage. Collecting a pass from Neal Pionk, Ehlers curled along the bottom of the circle and ripped the puck past Andersen with 5:26 to go for his 14th of the season.
With Zach Hyman and Travis Boyd in the box late in the game, Mark Scheifele blew a wrist shot past Andersen high, glove side, sealing the deal for Winnipeg on a five-on-three man advantage. With Stastny and Wheeler providing a perfect screen, the Jets’ top centreman made no mistake on a perfectly placed wrist shot. The goal took all life out of a potential Leafs comeback, handing Winnipeg its second win in three games against its North Division rival.
Brossoit finished the night with 19 saves on 21 Toronto shots, and saw his record improve to 5-1-0 on the season. With the loss Andersen’s record fell to 13-6-2 through his 21 games played. Winnipeg is now 17-8-2 on the season, while first-place Toronto holds onto a 19-8-2 record.
Now having played one another four times, six contests remain between the North Division foes before the 2020-21 regular season comes to an end. And should things end up positively playoff-wise, a seven-game date in the postseason is certainly not out of the equation at this point.
Winnipeg will now return home to Bell MTS Place for a two-game set with the Montreal Canadiens beginning on Monday and concluding two days later. Monday’s game will be available on TSN at 7:00 PM central, while Wednesday’s 8:00 PM matchup will be found on Sportsnet.