TORONTO - Paul Maurice doesn't believe the Winnipeg Jets can "fake" the intensity of being involved in a playoff race. When the Toronto Maple Leafs couldn't summon it either, the results were all too predictable.
Listless at times and outplayed much of Saturday night by a team that's not in contention, the Leafs left Air Canada Centre for perhaps the final time this season with a 4-2 loss that all but ended their playoff aspirations.
Toronto (38-33-8) already faced a tall task of needing to run the table to make up for an eight-game losing streak in March, and do so without No. 1 goaltender Jonathan Bernier.
Backup James Reimer said he was comfortable accepting that challenge. He gave up four goals on 41 shots but could hardly be blamed as the main reason the Leafs' season likely ended against the Jets.
The Leafs have just three games remaining — Tuesday at the Tampa Bay Lightning, Thursday at the Florida Panthers and Saturday at the Ottawa Senators — and trail the idle Columbus Blue Jackets (85 points) for the Eastern Conference's second and final wild-card spot. Columbus has five games left.
Maurice said earlier Saturday he was starting Pavelec in goal over rookie Michael Hutchinson because the Leafs and the other teams in the playoff race deserved Winnipeg dressing its "best lineup." That lineup did not include star winger Evander Kane, who was made a healthy scratch.
Kane has two goals and eight assists in 18 games since the end of the Olympic break. Devin Setoguchi, a healthy scratch for four of the past five games, replaced him.
Playing their final home game of the regular season, the Leafs didn't need long to infuse some energy into the crowd of 19,544. Kessel gave Toronto a 1-0 lead just 2:45 in, scoring on a two-on-one thanks to a perfect pass from Tyler Bozak.
At the 6:22 mark, a missed assignment in the defensive zone cost the Leafs the lead. Somehow Little was left all alone in the left faceoff circle, and Michael Frolik found him for his 23rd of the season.
Reimer robbed Matt Halischuk on a three-on-two rush at the midway point of the period to keep it tied, and then Kadri scored an unassisted goal that Pavelec should get some credit for. Following a dump-in on the power play, the Jets goalie went behind the net to stop the puck in nonchalant fashion.
When Pavelec muffed it, Kadri pounced and put it into an empty net at 13:45.
A lead into intermission would've been something positive for the Leafs to build on, but more chaos in their own end cost them with 3.2 seconds left. Trouba got positioning on James van Riemsdyk at the side of the net and banged a shot past Reimer to tie it before time expired.
Reimer has now given up 13 goals in the first period of his past six starts, all regulation losses.
Two second-period power plays couldn't generate anything positive for the Leafs, who also slogged through a shot drought of seven minutes, 24 seconds. Meanwhile, the Jets took advantage of a penalty on Paul Ranger.
With Ranger in the box for hooking Adam Pardy, Enstrom faked a shot at the blue-line, waited for a screen and fired a shot past Reimer 28 seconds into the power play at 17:02.
The Leafs couldn't do anything with their late-second-period power play and were outshot 26-15 through two.
Then the Jets added insurance 7:09 into the third when Blake Wheeler found Jokinen wide open in front. The goal was Jokinen's 18th of the season.
NOTES — Joffrey Lupul, who on Friday coach Randy Carlyle considered doubtful to play, was in the lineup after missing Thursday's game with a lower-body injury. But he left the game in the third period. ... Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return. ... Legendary Leafs goaltender Johnny Bower was interviewed on the video board and said that a woman who was proposed to minutes earlier wearing his No. 1 jersey was actually his granddaughter. Bower then got a standing ovation following a video tribute.
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