Leafs kick off road trip by stopping Jets 4-1
WINNIPEG — John Tavares liked how the Toronto Maple Leafs backed each other up and kept their composure in a physical 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.
With just under four minutes left in the second period and Toronto holding a 2-1 lead, Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey hit Leafs forward Nick Robertson. This prompted Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly to come to his defense and tangle with Morrissey.
“Obviously that says a lot about (Rielly’s) character. Not surprising,” Tavares said. “He went forward for our group.
“And then after that we stayed calm and calm because the temperature of the game really increased there. Scrums were frequent, but we were there to defend each other and protect our net.
Tavares scored two power-play goals, one in the first period and one late in the second, which made it 3-1.
Auston Matthews provided three assists and David Kampf and Michael Bunting also had goals for the Leafs, who were beginning a five-game NHL road trip.
« At the time, it didn’t look clean, so that was it, » Rielly said of why he got into a fight with Morrissey.
Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe ignored Rielly’s reaction.
“You know our sport asks for different things at different times, and sometimes you need players to step out of character a bit,” Keefe said.
Ilya Samsonov made 31 saves for Toronto (4-2-0), earning him wins in his four starts this season.
Pierre-Luc Dubois scored for the Jets (2-3-0) in front of a sold-out crowd of 15,325 fans at the Canada Life Centre, many dressed in Leafs jerseys. This was the first sold-out sale in Winnipeg since March 9, 2020.
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 24 shots for Winnipeg.
« You could hear it even before the national anthem tonight, you know, the battle of the Leafs and Jets chants, » Morrissey said. “It’s always a fun atmosphere. I think that intensity just increases the intensity in the game.”
New Jets head coach Rick Bowness recorded a loss on his season debut behind the bench. He missed the team’s first four games after testing positive for COVID-19.
« The difference in the game was clearly the specialist teams, » Bowness said. “We hit a few goal posts. And theirs entered.
The Leafs were 2 for 3 on the power play and the Jets were 0 for 3.
Dubois put Winnipeg first on the scoreboard when he received a cross pass from Cole Perfetti, fired a shot, then headed to the net and scored his own rebound at 4:17 of the first period .
Tavares made it 1-1 with 10 seconds left on a Toronto power play, sending a shot into the top corner on Hellebuyck’s blocker side at 9:56.
The Leafs had a power play with three minutes left in the period, which was marked by a hit on Mitch Marner.
Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo checked Marner from behind in the corner boards and he hit his head. He got up slowly and walked over to the Toronto bench. He didn’t play the rest of the period, but returned for the second.
Kampf’s decisive goal from the slot at 14:34 of the second period was set up by a clever pass from Wayne Simmonds, who sent the puck between his legs to Kampf.
Simmonds and Kyle Clifford, who picked up an assist for handing the puck to Simmonds, were making their Leafs season debuts on the fourth line with Kampf.
« I just grabbed (the puck) and tried to throw it as fast as I could and Kampfer just had a good shot, » Simmonds said.
The second period ended with a few fights, including one that led to another Toronto power play and Tavares’ second goal, a tip from a Matthews shot with 1:05 left.
Bunting finished the scoring with a backhand shot into an empty net with 2:37 left.
ON A ROLL
Leafs forward William Nylander extended his point streak to four games, adding an assist to give him two goals and a pair of assists in that span.
The Jets were without top winger Nikolaj Ehlers (lower body), who was placed on injured reserve Friday, retroactive to Oct. 18.
Ehlers is also expected to miss Monday’s home game against St. Louis. He was replaced by Mason Appleton.
Jets: Host the St. Louis Blues on Monday.
Leafs: At the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on October 22, 2022.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press