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Fresh off first win, Jets face surprising Maple Leafs

by Brian Hunter
JETS (1-3-0) at MAPLE LEAFS (3-0-1)


Season Series:
First of four meetings between the new Canadian rivals. The Maple Leafs split the games on their 2010-11 slate with the then-Thrashers, as Nikolai Kulemin led all scorers with 5 goals. Andrew Ladd, now the captain in Winnipeg, had 4 goals.

Big Story:
While the Jets are still trying to find their footing, the Maple Leafs are off to a fast start for the second straight season. They began 4-0-1 last October, but followed with a 1-8-2 stretch that put them back in the familiar position of chasing a playoff spot the remainder of the season instead of letting the competition pursue them. The hope in Toronto is that with Phil Kessel off to a blazing start and James Reimer now the full-time goaltender, the Leafs will be able to avoid the types of skids that derailed their hopes of a season ago.

Team Scope:

It was a historic night in Winnipeg on Monday in more ways than one. First, the Jets opened the scoring against the visiting Penguins just eight seconds after the opening faceoff on a goal by Kyle Wellwood. That tied the franchise record for quickest goal (Ronald Petrovicky of the old Thrashers set it on Dec. 20, 2003, also against Pittsburgh). They lit the lamp again late in the first period, courtesy of Tanner Glass, and Ondrej Pavelec stopped 28 of 29 shots to give the new Jets their first-ever victory by a 2-1 score.

"It gives us something to look back on and say we need to be more like we were against Pittsburgh," Ladd said. "It is something that we can use to feed off the momentum and get better and better.

"At the end of the day, it has to come from within this room. I think it just gives you a good feeling when you're doing the right things of what it takes. The feeling in here right now is just so much better than after those three losses."

Maple Leafs: Facing an equally hot and somewhat surprising opponent on Monday night, Toronto came back to secure a point before falling to Colorado 3-2 in overtime. Nikolai Kulemin picked up the rebound of a Dion Phaneuf shot and put it past former Leafs goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere with 4:43 left in regulation, but Reimer was beaten by David Jones 71 seconds into the extra period as the Avalanche won their fifth straight road game. Kessel had started the scoring in the second with his NHL-leading sixth goal at the 19-second mark.

"I thought it was a big point. We battled back," Phaneuf said. "We were down 2-1 going into the third … I thought it was a big goal late in the game to get that point and to push it to overtime. We're not happy with the loss, but we'll take that point and move forward."

Who's Hot:
Wellwood, a 2001 draft pick by the Maple Leafs, has 2 goals in his first four games with the Jets. … Kessel led the League not only in goals, but points (9) at the start of Tuesday night's action.

Injury Report:
Winnipeg forward Evander Kane (lower body) and defenseman Ron Hainsey (upper body) are day-to-day. Forward Eric Fehr is on injured reserve as he recovers from shoulder surgery. … Toronto forwards Nazem Kadri (knee) and Tim Connolly (upper body) are on injured reserve.

Stat Pack:
The last time Jets fans saw a win in a meaningful game prior to Monday, it was April 21, 1996, when their team beat the Red Wings 4-1 in Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinals. The team's last win was in Game 5 of that series, a 3-1 victory on April 26 in Detroit. The Wings closed out the series two days later back in Winnipeg, and the original Jets moved to Phoenix for the 1996-97 season.

Puck Drop:
Their first regular-season home game had a circus-like atmosphere and the Jets were handled fairly easily by the Canadiens. They lost their following two games on the road. Finally, back at the MTS Centre in game No. 4, coach Claude Noel saw the effort he wanted out of his squad.

"We played with more urgency and more pizzazz," he said. "I think they were as fed up as we were."

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