TORONTO - One goal was worth five spots in the standings for Zach Bogosian and the Winnipeg Jets.
Bogosian scored in the 10th round of the shootout to earn Winnipeg a wild 5-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. The victory moved the Jets atop Southeast Division and into the No. 3 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.
Heady stuff considering Winnipeg came in holding down the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference and still managed to capture the victory despite surrendering a 4-1 lead late in the second period.
"There's no scripted way to win a hockey game and obviously we didn't script it up to be that way," Bogosian said. "But we got the win and that's what good teams do, they find ways to win."
Bogosian cemented the win by beating James Reimer, who replaced starter Ben Scrivens to start the third, for Winnipeg's second goal of the shootout after Blake Wheeler scored in the first round. Tyler Bozak had the lone shootout goal for Toronto, who had three different players fire shots off the post in the 1-on-1 showdown event.
"Once a stallion, always a stallion," Jets coach Claude Noel said of Bogosian. "He was looking at me on the bench like he wants to go, and I was just trying to find someone who wanted to shoot.
"He gave me the look."
Wheeler, with two, James Wright and Antti Miettinen scored in regulation for Winnipeg (15-11-2), which earned its fifth win in six games and moved atop the Southeast Division, one point ahead of Carolina, which lost 4-1 to Tampa Bay. The Jets also clinched the season series 2-1 after beating Toronto 5-2 in Manitoba on Tuesday.
"It was a good game for Hockey Night In Canada, it was exciting . . . from the coaches' standpoint it was a little too exciting for our liking," Noel said. "We did a lot of good things in the second period but it was disappointing to see it go from 4-1 to 4-3.
"We should have managed things a little better. Other than that, it was good, we got the two points."
Toronto (15-12-2) suffered its fifth straight loss but still moved into a sixth-place in the East with New Jersey (13-10-6), which lost 2-1 to Montreal. The defeat tarnished an impressive return by Joffrey Lupul, who scored twice in his first game since suffering a broken forearm in a road win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 23.
Toronto's Phil Kessel forced overtime with his 10th goal of the season at 5:50 of the third before an energetic Air Canada Centre gathering of 19,401 in a game that had a playoff feel to it. Nikolai Kulemin also scored in regulation.
Kulemin had a great scoring chance early in overtime after Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec came out to play a loose puck, but fired a shot wide. Later, Nazem Kadri also had a good chance but couldn't pull the trigger.
"We hit three posts in the shootout, that's just the way it's going right now," Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "The positive we have to take out of it is we again found a way to get a point, move on and get ourselves ready."
Lupul's first period back was an eventful one.
He opened the scoring at 1:32 with his first goal of the season. After taking a nice setup pass from Kadri, Lupul fired a backhand past both Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien and Pavelec. After taking two minor penalties in the period, Lupul finished the frame by levelling Winnipeg's Evander Kane at the final horn.
"I didn't really have time to feel the nerves," Lupul said. "I got out there, a guy turned the puck over and Naz made a nice pass and I scored before I felt like I was even into it.
"It was pretty much the dream first shift back. I felt great. My legs felt good, I felt good with the puck, my arm felt strong. No complaints."
Carlyle was impressed with Lupul's solid return.
"You can see he stands out (with) his skating and ability on the ice . . . he separates himself," Carlyle said.
Toronto outshot Winnipeg 14-11 in an entertaining first that also saw the Leafs' Colton Orr and Jets' Chris Thorburn square off in a solid tilt at 4:06, their second in less than a week. The gloves came off again at 8:22 when Toronto's Korbinian Holzer wanted to go with Kane. But when Kane refused, Bogosian stepped in and registered the clear decision.
Winnipeg dominated most of the second, outshooting Toronto 16-8. Wright scored his first of the season at 5:29 to make it 1-1 before Miettinen fired a shot off the post as Toronto didn't register its first shot on goal until the 6:57 mark.
Miettinen put Winnipeg ahead 2-1 at 10:36 with his second, batting a rebound past Scrivens after the Leafs' goalie couldn't glove Byfuglien's blast. Wheeler gave the Jets a two-goal advantage, firing a bouncing puck past Scrivens for his 11th at 12:03, then made it 4-1 after fending off Holzer to beat Scrivens on the wraparound at 15:29.
But Kulemin and Lupul scored 25 seconds apart to make it 4-3. Kulemin fired a wrist shot off the faceoff past Pavelec at 18:35 for his third before Lupul registered his second of the contest at 19:00.
However, Toronto's second-period woes continued a recent ugly trend of the club having costly breakdowns against opponent. Carlyle said his players must look within themselves for a solution.
"I think we just have to take responsibility and look at ourselves in the mirror and say, 'This can't be happening to this hockey club,"' Carlyle said. "I'm sure they don't want to play like that but it seems to harass our group."
Added Lupul: "We had some problems getting the momentum back in our favour. It was probably for 8-10 minutes but we were really fighting the puck and turning it over. I mean that was kind of where we lost the game . . . we got a point but hopefully a lesson learned for us."
NOTES - Toronto players wore camo green warmup jerseys on Canadian Forces Appreciation night while the club hung King Clancy's banner at the ACC in honour of St. Patrick's Day . . . Toronto concludes its three-game homestand Wednesday hosting Tampa Bay . . . Winnipeg forward Nik Antropov played 509 games with Toronto (1999-2000 to 2008-'09) while teammate Kyle Wellwood appeared in 189 games with the Leafs (2003-'04 to 2007-'08) . . . Lupul missed 25 games recovering from his forearm injury . . . Winnipeg's Andrew Ladd came into Saturday's game leading all NHL captains with 14 goals scored.