By Darrin Bauming (@DarrinBauming)
Trying to roll with the momentum gained from the team’s first regular season win on Monday at home, the Winnipeg Jets flew into Toronto’s Air Canada Centre to meet the 3-0-1 Maple Leafs Wednesday night. Winnipeg held a late two-goal lead, but eventually fell 4-3 in a shootout.
Winnipeg came out fast, keeping the Buds on their heels in the opening minutes before they were finally able to apply some pressure on Monday’s standout netminder – Ondrej Pavelec.
Jets defenceman Tobias Enstrom opened the scoring on the power play midway through the opening frame. Enstrom’s first of the year from Bryan Little and Dustin Byfuglien was Winnipeg’s first power-play goal through the team’s opening four games (0-for-17).
The Jets finished the night 2-for-4 with the man-advantage, turning their PP-unit’s effectiveness completely around. It’s been a somewhat surprising struggle through the opening week and a half, as they led the entire league in that department at one point last season.
Toronto answered back almost immediately as Joffrey Lupul scored on a rush via Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak.
Winnipeg struck again in the opening minutes of the second as Alexander Burmistrov found the twine on a nice little give-and-go with Nik Antropov.
Roughly five minutes later, 18-year-old Mark Scheifele scored his first NHL goal on the power play — a Byfuglien rebound finding his stick on the doorstep, making it 3-1 Winnipeg.
“It was definitely special to get it here in front of a bunch of people that came to the game,” said the rookie. “But it would’ve been nicer to get the win.”
Scheifele, who was playing in front of roughly 20+ friends and family from his nearby hometown of Kitchener, Ont., had his keepsake puck fished out of the net by teammates Byfuglien and Evander Kane.
The Jets held Toronto at bay early in the third, leading the shot count 6-1 through the first six minutes. But as the Leafs went on the power play twice in a 30-second span, Lupul and NHL-leading scorer Kessel each capitalized to tie the game.
Lupul’s went off the stick of Enstrom as Zach Bogosian was off for a questionable interference call, while Kessel’s came with Winnipeg-born Derek Meech off for tripping. Wednesday was Meech’s first game of the season.
Overtime solved nothing, as Morweena, Manitoba native James Reimer stopped three more of the Jets 29 total shots. Pavelec stopped one in OT, and 20-of-23 on the night.
In the shootout, Toronto’s Lupul and Matt Frattin found the mesh, while Winnipeg’s Burmistrov and Kyle Wellwood went fruitless.
The Jets now head 400 kilometres east to Ottawa to take on the 1-5-0 Senators Thursday night. They return home for a two-game set against the Hurricanes and Rangers before heading out to Philly to meet a red-hot new-look Flyers squad.
“I think it’s a good thing, it gets us in a little rhythm,” said Winnipeg head coach Claude Noel post-game. “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.”
* Joffrey Lupul
** Phil Kessel
*** Dustin Byfuglien