Tuesday night was not exactly a must-win situation for the Winnipeg Jets, but when you struggle on the road, wins at home are critical. The Jets gave up the first goal but came back for a 2-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, handing the Leafs their first regulation loss in the last seven games.
Phil Kessel with is 30th goal of the season opened the scoring, but before the first period ended Chris Thorburn tied it with his second of year. Thorburn took a Zach Bogosian pass, drove the net and beat Jonas Gustavsson with a backhand shot. Jim Slater also drew an assist.
"I call him sniper," was the comment from Coach Claude Noel on Thorburn's goal.
The game-winner came in the second with Johnny Oduya starting the play with a pass to Bryan Little. Little hit Blake Wheeler in full flight down the left side, Wheeler was stopped but Little followed the play for his 13th of the year and second in three games. It was another strong game from Wheeler.
Ondrej Pavelec was again solid when he needed to be, with his biggest save coming in the third on a partial breakaway by Matthew Lombardi. Pavelec has now given up only 13 goals in his last seven games, and is 4-2-1 in that stretch.
The Jets finished the game on an impressive note not allowing the Leafs to get out of their own zone to get set up in the offensive after pulling Gustavsson for the extra attacker. It was great fore-checking by the Jets.
After averaging 22.8 shots on goal per game over the last five games, and missing the net with 24 shots in Montreal, the Jets fired 29 against the Leafs, and missed the net only seven times.
With Washington winning over Florida and Ottawa losing to St. Louis, the Jets sit five points out of eighth in the Eastern Conference, but only four points behind Southeast Division-leading Washington. Next up for the Jets is in Washington Thursday (7pm et/6pm pt on TSN Jets, TSN 1290).
There was also an interesting event in the third on a delayed penalty against Toronto. Gustavsson came out to play the puck and then retreated, which eliminated an icing call. He then quickly came out and played the puck in the "no play" zone. Neither referee saw it, and it is not a call the linesman can make. It would have given the Jets a five-on-three power play.
Bogosian led all Jets with four shots on goal, Mark Stuart led in the hits department with six. Kyle Wellwood was a late scratch because of the flu, and was replaced in the lineup by Eric Fehr. Evander Kane returned after missing seven games, while Tim Stapleton missed his eighth game, but could be back in the the lineup Thursday.
The Jets are now 8-0-1 in home games where the opposition played the night before.
"We tried to be creative off the rush," continued Noel. "Wasn't great but we found a way to win."
On a TSN Jets post-game interview Wheeler said "a three, four, five goal game is coming." The last three wins for the Jets have been by the same 2-1 score.
Jets are in a post-All-Star stretch of seven games in just over 11 days, with six on the road.