Winnipeg Jets 4 Toronto Maple Leafs 2 (Jets 35-34-10, 18-18-4 road) – After getting mathematically eliminated from the playoff race Thursday, the Jets talked about finishing the season playing the right way, establishing good habits and playing for each other.
Considering everything, it was a very solid effort and a character win by the Jets. The loss leaves the Leafs out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, in what was their final home game of the season. Jets played without Evander Kane, coach's decision, then lost the services of Dustin Byfuglien late in the second with an upper body injury. Jets got great efforts from pretty much the entire lineup.
The Leafs opened the scoring, Phil Kessel with his 37th on a great pass from Tyler Bozak. Bryan Little with his 23rd tied the game less than four minutes later, assists to Michael Frolik and Mark Stuart. Little had his seven game point streak snapped Thursday, but with the goal is 3-6-9 in his last nine.
The Leafs took the lead on Nazem Kadri's 20th of the year. It was an easy open net tap in power play goal after Ondrej Pavelec misplayed a dump in, had it go off his stick to the front of the net making it 2-1 Leafs. A big goal for the Jets came in the dying seconds of the first as Jacob Trouba out fought James Van Reimsdyk for a loose puck in front of the Leafs net for his 10th of the year. Frolik and Andrew Ladd drew assists. Shots in the first were 12-8 Jets.
The second period was all Jets, despite having to kill off two penalties in the first half of the period. On their second power play in the back half of the period, Toby Enstrom with his 10th of the year gave the Jets their first lead of the game. Enstrom walked the line from left to right and fired a screened shot past James Reimer. The goal ties a single season career high for Enstrom, assists went to Ladd and Blake Wheeler. Shots in the second period were14-7 in favour of the Jets. When the Leafs did get chances, Pavelec was there to shut the door.
Jets continued their strong play in the third, Coach Paul Maurice having to do some juggling with no Byfuglien. The Jets continued to be first on loose pucks and a great play by Wheeler, using his speed to set up Olli Jokinen for his 18th of the year making it 4-2. Jokinen has now scored in back to back games. The Leafs pulled Reimer with 2:45 remaining but a couple key saves from Pavelec and Wheeler using his speed to negate an icing call, helped the Jets close out the game. Shots in the third were 15-10 Jets and 41-25 Jets on the game.
Jim Slater in his 499th NHL game, all with this organization, was key in the face-off department, winning nine of 15. Ladd, Wheeler and Frolik all had two point nights. Since December 1st Wheeler has 50 points in 51 games. He has 17 points in his last 14 games. Jacob Trouba at 26:10 again led the Jets in ice time. After missing the net 18 times Thursday, the Jets missed the net another 17 times tonight. The Jets directed a total of 71 shots at Reimer.
Coach Maurice was "really happy" for his team. "We competed for pucks, played with tenacity, the bench was great. We got a bad break on their second goal but the bench stayed up beat and kept talking." Coach Maurice would not elaborate on Kane not playing, other than "coach's decision." "With Byfuglien out we had a hole in our forward lines. Eric Tangradi and Eric O'Dell gave us some good shifts. Key face-off wins for Jim Slater. Our team believed what they said, they would play for each other. One thing about this group, they care."
Jets are home to Minnesota Monday and Boston Thursday (both TSN Jets, TSN 1290), then close out the season in Calgary Friday (TSN Jets, TSN 1290).