WINNIPEG, MB - The Winnipeg Jets had to play 76 games since they were embarrassed 7-2 on opening night by the Toronto Maple Leafs but in the end, it was worth the wait, as they dropped the Leafs 3-1.
After seeing their six-game win streak come to an end earlier this week in Chicago, the Jets got right back on track Saturday night in front of a National audience on Hockey Night in Canada.
Josh Morrissey and Dustin Byfuglien scored 1:10 apart to give the Jets a lead they would never relinquish, and Connor Hellebuyck shut the door the rest of the way as Winnipeg won the battle between the only two Canadian teams who will be taking part in the post-season in a couple weeks.
After a scoreless first period, Toronto’s third-ranked power play in opened the scoring early in the second. With Ben Chiarot in the box, Auston Matthews sent a perfect pass to Patrick Marleau at the top of the crease, who redirected the puck past Hellebuyck giving Toronto a 1-0 lead. The goal was Marleau’s 534th, passing Frank Mahovlich for sole possession of 33rd on the NHL all-time goal scoring list.
Winnipeg would get on the board after the Paul Stastny, Patrik Laine, and Nikolaj Ehlers line kept the puck in the Maple Leafs zone for quite some time before Josh Morrissey hammered a shot that beat a screened Curtis McElhinny over the glove for his sixth goal of the season and first in 44 games.
Winnipeg’s fourth-ranked power play got to work just over a minute later with Dustin Byfuglien snapping a shot through a screen that went bar down, putting Winnipeg up 2-1.
Andrew Copp would round out the scoring, firing home an Adam Lowry pass short-side on McElhinny to make it 3-1.
Toronto (47-25-7) would press late but were unable to beat Hellebuyck, who stopped 28-of-29 shots for his 41st win of the season, tying him for second in the NHL in wins, one behind Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Jets (48-20-10) lead the Minnesota Wild by 10 points for second in the Central division and trail the Nashville Predators by five points for first with four games remaining. Winnipeg will travel to Ottawa to take on the Senators on Monday night before heading to Montreal on Tuesday to wrap up their regular season road schedule. The Jets return home for the final two games of the regular season against Calgary (Thursday) and Chicago on Saturday.