Just call them the first-place Winnipeg Jets.
Zach Bogosian ended the longest shootout in more than two years by scoring in the 10th round to give the Jets a 5-4 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. The victory, combined with Carolina's 4-1 loss at Tampa Bay, moved the Jets past the Hurricanes and into the top spot in the Southeast Division.
"We've played well of late. Things are really coming together," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "We still have a ways to go, but we believe in ourselves and the way we play -- and we're happy we're at the top, at least for the time being."
It was the longest shootout in the NHL since Buffalo beat Montreal in 10 rounds on Feb. 15, 2011.
Blake Wheeler scored in the first round of the shootout for the Jets and Tyler Bozak connected in round two for Toronto. Goalies Ondrej Pavelec of the Jets and James Reimer of the Maple Leafs then matched saves until Bogosian, a defenseman, snapped a shot past Reimer's glove and under the crossbar to give the Jets their second victory against the Leafs in five days.
"Once a stallion, always a stallion," Noel said of Bogosian, the franchise's top pick in the 2008 NHL Draft. "He was looking at me like he wanted to go. I was trying to find people to go, and he gave me the look."
It was the first shootout attempt of Bogosian's NHL career.
"We do them all the time in practice, but I'm not the greatest at them," he said. "I just figured I'd come in with a lot of speed, try to slow up a little and make him back up in the net and just take a shot. I knew what I was doing; I was just hoping it would go in."
Wheeler scored twice in regulation for Winnipeg (15-11-2), which has won three in a row and is 5-0-1 in its last six. The Leafs (15-11-1) lost their fifth in a row despite two goals from returnee Joffrey Lupul; however, they overcame a 4-1 deficit to get a point that moved them past New Jersey into sixth place in the East.
“The positive we take out of it is we again found a way to get a point," Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said.
His team's mental lapses were another matter.
“We don’t mean to play like that," he said, "but it seems to grasp our group."
Noel was happy to leave Air Canada Centre with two points, though he wasn't happy about seeing his team's three-goal lead vanish.
“It was a good game for Hockey Night In Canada," Noel said. “It was exciting from that standpoint. It was a little too exciting from our standpoint. It got a little upsetting to see that 4-1 lead got to 4-3 [in the second period]."
Lupul wasted no time making an impact, scoring on his first shift in his first game back after missing 25 contests with a broken right forearm. Nazem Kadri took the puck away from Kyle Wellwood along the right wall in the Winnipeg zone and slipped a past to Lupul, who moved into the slot and whipped a backhander past Pavelec at 1:32. It was his first goal since Feb. 29, 2012, though he played only five games in the interim because of injuries.
Both teams had chances during the remainder of the period, which saw Toronto outshoot Winnipeg 14-11.
The early stages of the second period belonged to the Jets, who swarmed the Leafs' zone and got even on a nice three-way passing play. Nik Antropov worked the puck free in the neutral zone and got it to Wellwood, who carried down the right side and found James Wright heading for the net. Wellwood put the puck right on his stick, and Wright lifted it over Ben Scrivens' right pad at 5:29 for his first NHL goal since Nov. 7, 2009, when he played for Tampa Bay.
The Jets continued to control play and grabbed the lead at 10:36 when Antti Miettinen batted the puck out of the air and past Scrivens for his second of the season -- both of which have come in the past two games. Scrivens stopped Dustin Byfuglien's blast, but Miettinen made contact with the puck just below the crossbar. The play was ruled a goal on the ice, and video review upheld the call.
Winnipeg continued to attack and made it 3-1 just 87 seconds later after some nice work by Wheeler. He dumped the puck behind the net, batted it away from Scrivens and headed to the front of the net. Bryan Little battled Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf for the puck, and it popped out into the slot, where Wheeler backhanded past a surprised Scrivens.
Wheeler got his second of the night at 15:29 on a nice individual effort. He came down left wing, had his shot blocked by Leafs' defenseman Korbinian Holzer, but chased down the carom, circled the net and stuffed a backhander inside the right post for his 12th of the season.
"We hit a spot in the game where we [didn't] seem to do anything right," Carlyle said of his team's play during the Jets' outburst. "We couldn't forecheck, we couldn't execute a pass, we turned the puck over, we found a way to give them a couple of goals, and then in the last three minutes of the period, we found the charge. We started to execute, started to forecheck, started to play the type of hockey we're capable of playing to get it within one."
Toronto got back in the game with two goals 25 seconds apart before intermission. Nikolai Kulemin scored his first in nine games after Jay McClement won a draw to the left of Pavelec back to him in the high slot for a rocket under the bar. Lupul got his second of the game at the 19-minute mark after Jets defenseman Grant Clitsome made an errant drop pass behind his own net. Kadri picked up the loose puck and found Lupul racing into the slot for a quick shot that Pavelec had no chance on.
"We got a goal in the third to get us a tie, so there are some good things that happened in the game," Carlyle said. "But they're overshadowed by losing the point in the shootout."
Material from team media was used in this report.
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