By Carter Brooks
Photo by James Carey Lauder
The Toronto Maple Leafs trailed for nearly the entire night at Scotiabank Arena Saturday. But 26 seconds of pure goodness was all it took for the Leafs to get past the Winnipeg Jets for the second time in four nights.
Although playing a full 60 minutes of hockey is the hope and dream of every coach, Winnipeg's Paul Maurice can't be feeling too well about his Jets' 59:34 effort on Saturday in Ontario's capital. After jumping ahead to a two-goal lead, Maurice watched as his team continued to wear down the Leafs, hold for a half-minute lapse that cost his team the game, 3-2.
With Toronto's Nazem Kadri in the penalty box for boarding defenceman Jacob Trouba midway through the first period, the potent Winnipeg power play struck as Mr. 500 found captain Blake Wheeler in his regular position on the halfwall. He looked cross ice and slid the puck to Kyle Connor, who beat Frederik Andersen cleanly, regaining his team lead over linemate Mark Scheifele with his sixth goal of the season.
The 1-0 lead held until the 11 minute mark of the second frame, as Scheifele picked up a loose puck in the Jets' end, before turning on the afterburners and blowing the zone on a breakaway. After fooling everyone in the building on his intentions to shoot the puck with his backhand, the 25-year-old snapped a quick wrist shot past Andersen, for the Jets' second goal of the night. Scheifele jumped back atop the leaderboard with Connor as he, too, collected his sixth of the young campaign.
After 40 minute, the home team left the ice of Scotiabank Area down two goals and without their leader, as Auston Matthews collided heavily with Jacob Trouba on a drive to the net. With the Leafs seemingly out of it, the Jets let their foot off the gas ever so slightly in the third period, and it ended up costing them the game.
Nazem Kadri scored his second goal in as many games against the Jets just six minutes into the third period, bringing the Buds to within one goal of Winnipeg. That goal reignited the hometown crowd, propelling the Leafs to tie the game with just four minutes left on a powerful Jake Gardiner blast. Just 26 seconds later, Toronto capitalized again, with Kasperi Kapanen wiring loose puck past Connor Hellebuyck top corner from inside the slot, putting the Leafs ahead for the first time in the game.
Hellebuyck (28 of 31) was pulled for the extra attacker with a minute and a half to go, but it was no use as the Jets were unable to score another. Freddie Andersen (22 of 24) even attempted an empty net goal, but his shot pulled slightly left of the yawning cage.
Winnipeg now moves to 7-4-1 on the season and has since taken off and arrived in Helsinki Finland for the two-game 2018 NHL Global Series with Aleksander Barkov and the Florida Panthers, beginning Thursday, November 1st. Both Thursday's and Friday's games begin at 1:00 P.M. central time from the Hartwell arena in Finland, and can be viewed live on TSN3.