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Leafs rally to beat Jets 4-3 in shootout

by Neil Acharya /

TORONTO -- The combination of Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel continues to light up the scoreboard for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Lupul had two goals in regulation and the winner in the shootout, while Kessel scored once and set up both of Lupul's tallies as the Leafs remained unbeaten in regulation by rallying to beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-3 on Wednesday night.

Kessel leads the NHL with seven goals and 12 points, while Lupul has four goals and seven points.

"Things are really going our way right now -- we are getting some bounces, and we are playing well too," Lupul said. "But some of the goals we are getting now I don't expect to be getting throughout the entire season. It's nice when things are rolling like this but there are still some things we can do better."

Kessel is one of the NHL's streakiest players, so the question remains as to whether this is just another streak -- or the start of a career year.

"Only time will tell if he finds a way to be more consistent," coach Ron Wilson said. "But I don't see any holes in his game right now. He's backchecking, forechecking, making good decisions with the puck and staying on top of things.

"He wants the puck all the time, he's demanding it and he's getting it. That's the big thing."

The Jets, who came to Toronto off their first win of the season at home against Pittsburgh on Monday, appeared to be on the way to their first road victory when they took a 3-1 lead into the third period. But they paid the price for back-to-back penalties that led the Leafs tie the score.

Lupul made it 3-2 at 7:28. With Zach Bogosian off for interference, Lupul's pass from the left circle caught the stick of Jets defenseman Tobias Enstrom and deflected through Ondrej Pavelec's pads for Lupul's fourth of the season.

Derek Meech then took a tripping penalty at 7:42, and the Leafs pulled even 13 seconds later when Kessel beat Pavelec from the left circle.

"You don't want to be in those situations, behind two goals, but to come back -- it's nice to get a victory like that," Kessel said. "Lupul has being playing great and (Tyler) Bozak has been playing really well too. Sometimes you need those power play goals to lift your team a little bit and fortunately tonight we got a couple."

The game could have ended in regulation had it not been for some great saves by Pavelec who robbed Kessel with 6:30 to go and then came up big again on David Steckel's try from his doorstep with two minutes to play.


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After a scoreless but frantic overtime, Pavelec stopped Kessel to open the shootout, but Lupul and rookie Matt Frattin both zipped wristers past Pavelec for the win. James Reimer stopped ex-Leaf Kyle Wellwood and Alexander Burmistrov.

It was a disappointing outcome for Pavelec, who fell to 3-10 for his career in shootouts.

"I felt great, I we think we played a great game for the first two periods, great defensively and we did a great job on the PK in the first two periods," he said. "In the third -- Toronto is a great team and if you give them chances they are going to do it. If you go to the penalty box twice in two minutes, that's going to hurt you and that's the thing that killed us in the third."

The Jets' most recent No. 1 picks came up big in the second period to give the Jets a 3-1 lead through 40 minutes.

Burmistrov, selected first in 2010 when the team was based in Atlanta, put the Jets ahead 2:27 into the period, taking Nik Antropov's passout and beating Reimer past the glove from the side of the crease beat Reimer glove side.

Mark Scheifele, the first player picked after the franchise relocated this summer, scored his first NHL goal at 7:53, firing home the rebound after Reimer stopped Dustin Byfuglien's shot. The first goal is a memorable milestone for any player -- it might have been a little extra special for Scheifele, who played his junior hockey in Barrie, just north of Toronto, and was playing in front of his parents and several friends.

"It was definitely special to get it here in front of a bunch of people that came to the game," he said. "But it would've been nicer to get the win."

The Jets opened the scoring with the man advantage 9:49 into the first period with Luke Schenn in the box for hooking, Enstrom scored his first of the season when he took a Bryan Little pass and fired it through a maze past Reimer.

Just 1:50 later, Kessel skated over the Jets' blue line, shook off Bogosian and slid a pass to Lupul for a shot from the left circle that went in and out quickly because it shattered the camera located in the net. There was a delay after the goal while the glass was removed.

The pairing of Kessel and Lupul, playing with different centers, has been carrying the Leafs -- and Wilson is a little but concerned about the lack of scoring balance.

"The fact of the matter is that line got the job done with different centermen at different times," said Wilson. "Those two guys (Kessel and Lupul) are hot. We've got to find a way to get the Grabovski line going a little bit more here."

During a commercial break in the first period, fans at the Air Canada Centre gave the Jets a standing ovation after there was an announcement welcoming them back to the League. The Jets had not played an NHL game in Toronto since March 13, 1996, when they tied the Leafs 3-3 at Maple Leaf Gardens.

After playing their first five games on the road, the Leafs begin a four-game trip Thursday night in Boston. Winnipeg travels to Ottawa on Thursday.

Jets coach Claude Noel doesn't mind the quick turnaround for his club.

"I think it's a good thing, it gets us in a little rhythm," he said. "It's a little busy week for us -- we've got five games in eight days -- but that's OK, we didn't have too many games when we started. We are going to see how we are going be off of back-to-back nights and we can go in there and take two points and then we're OK on the road trip."

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