TORONTO -- The Winnipeg Jets played the role of spoiler perfectly at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.
Tobias Enstrom's power-play goal with 2:58 left in the second period proved to be the game-winning goal and the Jets delivered a potentially-crushing blow to the Toronto Maple Leafs' hopes of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a 4-2 victory.
"I thought it was a great effort start to finish," Jets captain Andrew Ladd said. "Offensively we were able to sustain pressure throughout the whole game. That's just through hard work, being in the right place and allowing our guys to have good gap. We can be proud of the effort we put forth tonight."
Winnipeg, which was eliminated from playoff contention on Thursday, spoiled a chance for the Maple Leafs to earn two points in their pursuit of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
"You know what? It's a lousy job. You don't ever want to play spoiler," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "We've talked a lot about being where you are and that's where we were tonight and we gave our best effort."
Toronto still trails the Columbus Blue Jackets by one point with three games remaining; Columbus has two games in hand.
"See what happened to Columbus [Friday] night was a little break for us," Maple Leafs forward Tyler Bozak said, referring to the Blue Jackets' 4-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. "Tonight was a big game. But we still got three more and we have got to bear down and focus on these now."
The Jets controlled possession of the puck through the second period and drew a holding penalty from Maple Leafs defenseman Paul Ranger at 16:34. Enstrom's shot from outside the faceoff circle beat goalie James Reimer to his blocker side for his 10th goal of the season 28 seconds later to give the Jets a 3-2 lead.
"We just stayed on the puck," Maurice said. "We got back on so many pucks in the offensive zone, we were able to keep the puck. The big shift on the penalty kill and the power-play goal was kind of the payoff for some of the stuff we've been doing just like that, but couldn't find a way to get it to the net or the goalie made a save."
Olli Jokinen added to the Jets' lead with his 18th goal of the season at 7:09 of the third period. Jokinen was alone in the slot when Blake Wheeler connected with him for a one-timer that gave the Jets a 4-2 edge.
"We talked about it before the game and there was a couple things said," Frolik said. "A couple guys are playing for contracts and a couple guys play for the Jets. You want to finish the right way and you want to build that confidence for next year."
After the final horn, the fans booed the home team off the ice in their last home game of the season. The Jets outshot the Maple Leafs 41-25.
"It's frustrating, but talking about the fans, obviously we've all been fans before," Reimer said. "You know you expect so much from your team and you want to win so badly that when things don't go your way and maybe if you feel that they didn't give it their all, which wasn't the case here, we did we just didn't have enough. When you feel that way, I think you feel gypped. And so they're the ones paying the tickets, they have the right to do whatever they want."
Phil Kessel gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead 2:45 into the first period. Kessel's 37th goal of the season came on a 2-on-1 with Bozak against Jets defenseman Mark Stuart. Stuart sprawled on the ice to try and block a crossing pass, but Bozak's pass found Kessel for the goal.
"I think they outplayed us," Kessel said. "They were fast as you guys could tell. We needed to play better."
The Jets tied it up at 6:22 of the first period when Bryan Little fired a wrist shot past Reimer. Michal Frolik found Little open in the faceoff circle to the right of Reimer, where he snapped it by the Leafs goaltender for his 23rd goal of the season.
"We just stayed on them. We were relentless," Wheeler said. "Shift after shift, line after line, we were able to tire them out, tire their defense out, get some good changes, keep the puck in the offensive zone. Because of that we were able to create a lot of offense, create a lot of chances."
Nazem Kadri's power-play goal with 6:15 left in the first period gave Toronto a 2-1 lead. Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec went to play the puck behind his net on a dump around the boards and misplayed it to Kadri, who buried into an open net for his 20th goal of the season.
"I just got a bounce and I got thinking too much ahead how I'm going to play the puck," Pavelec said. "It's a terrible goal, but you have no choice to bounce back."
Jacob Trouba made it 2-2 with 2.1 seconds left in the first period. Trouba batted a rebound of a Frolik shot past Reimer for his 10th goal of the season.
Jets forward Dustin Byfuglien left the game in the second period and did not return after he sustained an upper-body injury.
"Day to day," Maurice said. "But the extent of it we won't know 'til we get back."
Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul made his return to the lineup after missing the game Thursday against the Boston Bruins, but he left the game Saturday after two periods and did not return because of a lower-body injury.
Carlyle said Lupul reaggravated his previous injury and his status is unknown.
|Phil Kessel (37) ASST: Tyler Bozak (29), James van Riemsdyk (30)|
1 - 0 TOR
|Bryan Little (23) ASST: Michael Frolik (26), Mark Stuart (10)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Nazem Kadri (20) ASST: NONE|
2 - 1 TOR
|Jacob Trouba (10) ASST: Michael Frolik (27), Andrew Ladd (30)|
2 - 2 Tie
|PPG - Tobias Enstrom (10) ASST: Andrew Ladd (31), Blake Wheeler (39)|
3 - 2 WPG
|Olli Jokinen (18) ASST: Blake Wheeler (40), Eric O'Dell (4)|
4 - 2 WPG
|Tobias Enstrom Tripping against Troy Bodie|
|Matt Halischuk Hi-sticking against Cody Franson|
|Mark Stuart Elbowing against Joffrey Lupul|
|Nikolay Kulemin Hooking against Eric O'Dell|
|Paul Ranger Holding against Adam Pardy|
|Tobias Enstrom Delaying Game - Puck over glass|