The Toronto Maple Leafs swept the two games in Winnipeg, but the Jets weren’t left completely empty-handed as they settled for a single point in a 2-1 shootout defeat on Friday at Bell MTS Place.
The Jets were way better than the previous meeting 48 hours earlier and controlled the play for much of the third period, but they just couldn’t muster the go-ahead goal. The Jets were stymied time and time again by Maple Leafs tender Jack Campbell who barely came on top of Connor Hellebuyck in this goaltending duel.
“He played well against us,” said Hellebuyck. “I got a lot of respect for the guy, and it was fun having a little goaltending battle out there. Those small scoring games against them don’t really happen too often.”
Campbell finished with 31 stops and has yet to lose this season, now 8-0 in eight appearances.
But it’s hard to fault Hellebuyck for the loss who made 37 saves in his 300th career game. He made a ton of great saves himself in the early stages of the game and then shut down the Leafs in overtime while the Jets had a man in the penalty box.
“Our goaltender was outstanding tonight,” Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. “Some of those saves in overtime were just incredible, so hats off to our back-end and Helly (Hellebuyck). They played great tonight.”
Despite leaving their last game in the first intermission with an undisclosed injury, Wheeler was back in the lineup for the rematch. He had three shots on goal in a little over 15 minutes of ice time. Earlier in the day there was some doubt if he would play or not, but Wheeler wasn’t willing to discuss his injury after the game.
The Jets third line of Adam Lowry, Andrew Copp, and Mason Appleton was matched up against the Leafs top line for much of the night. They not only kept Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner off the scoresheet but they also scored the Jets only goal to win the matchup.
“We really didn’t mess around with the puck too much in the neutral zone,” said Copp. “I don’t think that is something we wanted to do against that line and feed their transition game.
“Try to be as physical as possible against those guys. Obviously, Marner, Matthews, they’re pretty elusive, so they’re kinda tough to get your hands on, but I thought we did as good as a job as we could and forechecked hard and tried to make them defend.”
The shootout loss leaves the Jets four points behind the Leafs for top spot in the North Division.
Jets defenceman Tucker Poolman led the Jets with a career-high 24:50 of ice time which is almost three minutes more than his previous high.
Kyle Connor led the team with six shots but saw his four-game point streak come to an end.
The Leafs had a quick strike just four minutes into the game in their last outing 48 hours earlier, and they nearly did it again. Zach Hyman swooped around the net, circling in front of the goal, and Hellebuyck got just enough of the puck as it trickled wide by a mere inches.
Just past the midway point of the first, Nate Thompson spotted a wide open Appleton in the slot but Campbell made the stop on the wrister. There was no scoring in a fairly balanced first period where the Jets had the advantage in shots 9-6.
The two sides traded chances to start the second frame, and just past the five minute mark, Travis Dermott’s long shot eluded Hellebuyck. His second goal of the season opened the scoring.
Winnipeg notched the equalizer just past the midway mark of the period thanks to more great play from the Jets third line. On a 2-on-1, Lowry sent it across to Copp, and he took it off his skate before tucking it in behind Campbell. It’s a new career best for Copp with his 12th goal of the season.
The Leafs rang one off the pipe in the period’s final minute and it was all even headed to the final frame. The shots were 17-10 for Toronto in the second.
After Alex Galchenyuk hit the post to open the third, the Jets came on strong. They had the Leafs hemmed in their own zone in the middle stages of the period. Winnipeg had several quality chances but the game remain tied.
The Leafs had a couple of glorious chances to win the game in overtime while Pierre-Luc Dubois was in the box for a tripping penalty, but Hellebuyck stood his ground.
Campbell made a pad save on Connor to open the shootout. Jason Spezza gave the Leafs the advantage as he deked Hellebuyck before tucking it just inside the post. Dubois went next for the Jets but his shot was stopped by Campbell with a nice kick save.
Matthews had a chance to end it but missed the net. Mark Scheifele had to score to extend the shootout but fired it wide right to give the Leafs the extra point.
The final shots were 38-32 for Toronto.
Earlier on Friday, Maurice revealed defenceman Nathan Beaulieu will miss the rest of the season after undergoing successful shoulder surgery on Thursday to repair a torn labrum.
The Jets are back in action on Monday after the NHL shuffled their schedule following the cancellation of a pair of games with a COVID-19 outbreak on the Vancouver Canucks.
The Jets will play host to the Ottawa Senators on Monday starting at 6:00 PM and you can listen to the game live on 680 CJOB with Kelly Moore, Paul Edmonds, and Jamie Thomas.
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