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Jets, once up 4-1, beat Maple Leafs in OT

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG -- Paul Maurice continues his rehabilitation of the Winnipeg Jets.

Maurice's team blew a three-goal lead but defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 Saturday at MTS Centre when Dustin Byfuglien ripped a high shot past Jonathan Bernier with 2:16 left in overtime.

"An overtime win on a Saturday night against the Leafs?" Maurice said. "We'll take it and enjoy every inch of it."

It was the fifth win in six games for the Jets since Maurice replaced Claude Noel on Jan. 12, but it didn't come easily.

"I think that's been our big thing around here: Sticking with the game plan and not getting away from it," Byfuglien said. "You stick with it, you're bound to get your shots and opportunities to score. It's just a matter of doing it when you get the chances."

The Jets led 4-1 in the second period but couldn't put away the Maple Leafs in regulation. Goals by Troy Bodie and Tim Gleason before the end of the second period made it 4-3, and Phil Kessel tied it by beating Ondrej Pavelec with 1:33 left in regulation, his 27th goal of the season.

"It's the kind of team that is dangerous when they're down, because they have some breakaway speed," Maurice said. "They'll try you a lot 1-on-1. They'll do things [while] down that they won't necessarily do when they're even."

The Maple Leafs (27-21-6) ended a four-game trip against Western Conference opponents 2-1-1. They begin a three-game homestand Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The overtime point moved the Maple Leafs past the Montreal Canadiens into third place in the Atlantic Division, though Montreal holds two games in hand.

"We'll take the point and run with it," said left wing James van Riemsdyk, who set up Kessel's goal.

The Jets (24-24-5) visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.

Rookie center Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler gave the Jets a 2-0 lead 6:34 into the game. Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf scored a power-play goal 6:13 into the second period, but Bryan Little restored Winnipeg's two-goal lead 1:23 later, and Zach Bogosian scored his second of the season at 8:13 to make it 4-1.

The Little and Wheeler goals came on the power play for the Jets, who began the game ranked 27th in the NHL before scoring on two of their three man-advantages Saturday.

Little's goal ended the night for Toronto goalie James Reimer; it's the second time in as many games Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle pulled his starter. Reimer stopped 15 shots; Bernier made 12 saves. Pavelec, making his eighth consecutive start, finished with 24 saves.

"The boys did a great job of battling back and got some huge goals, so it was a huge point," Reimer said. "But obviously for myself, you want to find a way -- whether it's the first, second, third or fourth goal -- to find a way to make those saves."

Bernier held the Jets scoreless in his first game since Reimer replaced him a 7-1 loss against the Dallas Stars on Thursday.

"Obviously you're feeling stiff," Bernier said of entering the game. "I didn't think I had too many scoring chances in the second when I came in, so it gave me a chance to get my mind and my body into the game."

Scheifele gave the Jets a quick lead by scoring his 10th of the season. Evander Kane forced a turnover from Gleason before working the puck to Scheifele, who snapped a shot from the high slot that snuck past Reimer. Wheeler's 19th, the Jets' first power-play goal in four games, made it 2-0. He broke down the left side on his off-wing and directed a wrist shot through Reimer's pads.

The Maple Leafs' fourth-ranked power play scored early in the second period. Fifty-five seconds after Winnipeg defenseman Keaton Ellerby's boarding minor gave the Toronto its second man-advantage, Phaneuf ripped a shot from just inside the blue line that beat Pavelec.

Bodie's goal at 9:14 cut the margin to 4-2, and Gleason made it a one-goal game at 16:44 when his low snap shot went through Pavelec's pads. Gleason broke his 117-game goalless streak that dated to Dec. 18, 2011.

"We found a way to get a point back being down 4-1," Carlyle said. "There were a lot of positives that took place after, and you've got to credit our guys with finding a way to claw back and do that.

"We could have grabbed another point, but we'll take it," Carlyle added. "We were looking for some form of a response. With the way the game started out for us, it was a heck of a response for us to get a point."

The Maple Leafs have allowed 12 goals in their past two games and rank 26th in the NHL with 3.04 allowed per game. Carlyle will continue to work on having his team shore up its defensive-zone play.

"I think we can be more physical in certain situations and we can work harder to get inside on people," Carlyle said.

Since taking over as Jets coach, Maurice has worked on a calmer approach and emphasized a need to adhere to an established game plan rather than playing to the game's score.

Even amid Toronto's second-half comeback, Maurice said he noticed the poise his team displayed.

"I like our bench," Maurice said. "It's calm. They're saying the right things to each other in kind of a pressure-filled game."

Maurice has been tasked with repairing the outlook of a club that remains last in the Central Division and had lost five consecutive games before general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff dismissed Noel.

"The wins that we have been able to get here, that's where the confidence gets built," Maurice said.

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