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TORONTO — First they got a little mad. And just when it looked like they might get even, the Winnipeg Jets self-destructed and gift-wrapped a win for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Winnipeg had a 2-1 lead late in the third period, only to give up two goals in 26 seconds and toss away two points. The end result was a frustrating 3-2 defeat at Scotiabank Arena, the second loss in less than a week to their Eastern Canadian neighbours.
The Jets fall to 7-4-1, while the Leafs improve to 8-4-0. The surprising two points will help ease the pain, at least a little bit, of losing leading scorer Auston Matthews in the second period.
Winnipeg defenceman Jacob Trouba likely earned himself a public enemy No. 1 label when he threw a hard, clean check on Matthews, who immediately went to the bench and appeared to be favouring his shoulder. He then retreated to the dressing room and was ruled out the rest of the night.
For the Jets, it was shaping up to be one of their most complete efforts of the young season, and the fact it came in hostile territory in a back-to-back situation against an elite and well-rested opponent would have made it even more impressive.
But then it all fell apart, starting with a Dustin Byfuglien giveaway behind his own that ended up on the stick of Toronto’s Jake Gardiner, who tied the game with 3:11 left in the final period. And then Kasperi Kapanen fired a shot over Connor Hellebuyck’s shoulder with 2:45 to play for the game winner.
Toronto had some early chances as Winnipeg took the first penalty of the game for the ninth straight contest. Matthews hit the side of the post on the subsequent power play, but the Maple Leafs couldn’t make the Jets pay.
There was a noticeable edge to the game, no doubt caused by the fact these two Canadian squads were seeing each other for the second time in less than a week. Nazem Kadri threw a dangerous hit from behind on Trouba and was given a two-minute penalty, which the Jets quickly took advantage of.
Kyle Connor finished off a great tic-tac-toe sequence, taking a pass from Blake Wheeler who had just been fed the puck by Byfuglien. That marks the eighth straight game the Jets have scored a power-play goal.
Mark Scheifele extended the lead in the second period, with Kadri once again the culprit. This time, Scheifele stripped the puck off the Toronto forward at his own blue line and went the distance, beating Frederik Andersen for his sixth tally of the season, and fourth in as many games.
Patrik Laine began the night on the fourth line with Jack Roslovic and Brendan Lemieux, and the trio had one particularly tough shift in the opening period where they repeatedly turned the puck over.
It wasn’t long after that Laine switched spots with Andrew Copp and began skating on a trio with Adam Lowry and Brandon Tanev. It’s been a rough stretch for Laine, who has yet to score in five-on-five play this season. He took an interference penalty in the second period by throwing a body check on a player without the puck, but his teammates managed to kill it off.
Nikolaj Ehlers had a couple of great chances to extend the lead further, but was stopped on a breakaway and then fired wide of what appeared to be an open net. It seems the monkey he shed off his back earlier in the week when he scored for the first time in 27 games might still be hanging around.
Kadri got the comeback going early in the third, beating Hellebuyck with a wrist shot to cut the lead in half. Linemate Mitch Marner made a strong play from the corner to find him open.
Winnipeg jumped on a charter immediately after the game for an eight-hour overseas flight. They’ll face the Florida Panthers in a pair of games Thursday and Friday in Helsinki, Finland as part of the NHL’s Global Series event.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.