KAPANEN EQUALS CAREER-BEST IN POINTS, PUTS LEAFS AHEAD WITH LONE FIRST-PERIOD GOAL
Maple Leafs winger Kasperi Kapanen has been on a hot streak on offence, with four goals and eight points in his previous seven games heading into Wednesday's game in Winnipeg. And his hot streak continued against the Jets, as Kapanen struck for the first goal of the night - and the only goal scored in the first period:
Video: TOR@WPG: Kapanen opens scoring with heavy wrister
Kapanen's goal was the result of Toronto's sustained pressure in Winnipeg's zone, and in an opening frame in which the Leafs outshot the Jets 18-14, the goal gave the visitors much-needed confidence in seeking to end a two-game losing streak. It also was Kapanen's ninth point of the year, equalling his career-best in a single-season. That the 22-year-old needed 38 games last year to get that many points speaks to Kapanen's rapid growth as an NHLer.
ENNIS, KADRI BOTH GENERATE FIRST GOALS OF THE SEASON AS LEAFS ESTABLISH THREE-GOAL LEAD
Toronto has registered a large amount of offence early in the season, but it had players still looking for their first goals of the year. Two of those players - winger Tyler Ennis and centre Nazem Kadri - found ways to do so in the second period.
Ennis was first to get on the scoresheet, deflecting a shot from the point by winger Josh Leivo at the 2:25 mark of the middle frame:
Video: TOR@WPG: Ennis tips one home from the slot
The Leafs extended their lead to 3-0 at 11:43 of the second, when Kadri streaked down the boards to the left side of Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck and beat him on the short side:
Video: TOR@WPG: Kadri collects pass off boards, pads lead
The Buds almost completely controlled the second period, outshooting Winnipeg 10-4 and keeping the Jets off the scoreboard. Heading into the third period with a three-goal advantage was about as great a development as Leafs head coach Mike Babcock could ask for.
JETS STRIKE TWICE IN THIRD, BUT ANDERSEN HOLDS FORT - AND MARNER AND TAVARES GIVE BUDS BREATHING ROOM, HELP SEAL VICTORY
The Jets had one more standings point (13 in total) than Toronto did entering Wednesday's game, so it was reasonable to think they weren't going to lie down in the third period and gift-wrap a win for the Leafs. And that's precisely what happened: winger Nikolaj Ehlers scored the home team's first of the night at 4:57, and 1:31 later, centre Mark Scheifele pulled the Jets within a goal of tying the game when he scored on the power play for his fifth of the season.
However - and in large part thanks to the stellar play of Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen, who stood strong despite Winnipeg outshooting Toronto 15-4 through the first 13 minutes of the third - Toronto restored its two-goal lead exactly two minutes after Scheifele scored:
Video: TOR@WPG: Tavares scores after Marner gets by defense
Toronto's fourth goal was a thing of beauty, as winger Mitch Marner carried the puck to the front of Winnipeg's net, and centre John Tavares swooped in to tap in the rebound from Marner's shot. The result was Tavares' seventh goal of the season (and Marner's ninth assist), and the goal put a drag on the Jets' growing momentum.
Andersen held the fort for the remainder of the third - as the Jets outshot the Leafs 22-11 in the period and 40-39 in the game - and the Buds improved their record to 7-3-0. Winnipeg will have a chance to avenge their loss when they travel to Toronto Saturday night to play at Scotiabank Arena, but the Leafs will have a couple of days' rest, while the Jets will be coming off a road game against Detroit Friday night.
In any case, Saturday's game almost certainly will be at least as competitive as Wednesday's, and the Leafs will need another stellar performance from Andersen and scoring from throughout the lineup if they're to win their second in a row.