Jets beat Maple Leafs in overtime thriller

- January 26th, 2014

CHICAGO — After a 1-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday in California, things opened up a bit for the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night in an exciting tilt with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Jets built a 4-1 lead, sending Manitoba’s own James Reimer to an early exit, before the Maple Leafs pushed back and eventually drew even with 1:33 left in regulation as Zach Bogosian was foiled on a clearing attempt, allowing James van Riemsdyk to put the puck on a tee for a Phil Kessel one-timer.

But at 2:44 of overtime, Dustin Byfuglien took a pass from captain Andrew Ladd and beat Jonathan Bernier on the glove side to propel the Jets to their fifth win in six games under head coach Paul Maurice.

“It was great we were able to respond after that late goal. Big boy (Byfuglien) stepped up and got us over the hump,” said Jets winger Blake Wheeler, who scored his team-leading 19th goal of the season at 6:34 of the first period that made it 2-0.

Mark Scheifele got the Jets on the board initially, applying pressure on the forecheck before Wheeler forced Tim Gleason to turn the puck over to Evander Kane, who found the rookie centre alone in the slot.

The second period was a wild one that produced five goals, including four in a span of three minutes and one second — a Dion Phaneuf one-timer from the point got the Leafs on the board, then Bryan Little redirected home a slap pass from Toby Enstrom and 37 seconds later, Zach Bogosian’s seeing-eye shot from the right point found the back of the net.

Just 61 seconds later Troy Bodie took a pass from Nazem Kadri and roofed his shot high to the blocker side of Ondrej Pavelec, a sure thrill for the pride of Portage la Prairie, especially when you consider he nearly made the Jets on a pro tryout offer in 2011-12.

Before the second period was out, Gleason’s point shot went in either off the stick or body of Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba.

“That’s not really what you want as a D corps, but we held together,” said Trouba. “It was a back-and-forth game but we were in a good spot going into the third period. I didn’t think we played that bad. They got one late but I didn’t think we get down at all. We came out, played a good overtime and got a goal and ended up winning.”

One thing that went unnoticed, at least for the men in stripes, was the two-hander Phaneuf delivered to Byfuglien on the game-winning goal.

Despite blowing the lead, the Jets weren’t really down about it, knowing the Leafs had won six of their past seven games.

“We knew they had a high-powered offence. We were ready for that and it was big we were able to pull it home in the end,” said Scheifele.

Maurice actually shouldered some of the blame for Bogosian’s turnover.

“On the tying goal, I’ll take responsibility for that,” said Maurice. “I’m trying to instill a certain confidence in our back end to make plays with the puck and not be banging the thing off the glass all night, when probably we could have used a bang off the glass (in that situation). That’s part of the teaching progression of where we’re at.”

As for the overtime, Maurice liked that his team went for it and was rewarded for that.

“We were really going and that’s the first sign,” said Maurice. “There’s no prevent (defence) there. I think we’ve got some confidence 4-on-4. We’ve got such good speed and some guys who can handle the puck.”

“We’ve done some good things at 4-on-4,” added Wheeler. “There wasn’t any panic on our bench. We still felt good about our game and our team. They got a late bounce, but we did a good job responding.”

Despite all of the good things the Jets managed, Maurice is still looking for the right mix on his fourth line as he used James Wright (5:44), Chris Thorburn (5:11) and Anthony Peluso (4:50) rather sparingly.

Now that the Jets are facing the Chicago Blackhawks on consecutive days, so the fourth line is likely to be needed a little more this evening but Maurice could have trouble finding match-ups that he likes. And you can be sure, Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville will try to get his top two units out against the Jets’ fourth line whenever possible.

It will also be interesting to see if Maurice inserts either Eric O’Dell or Eric Tangradi (or maybe even both) on the fourth line and does a little mix-and-matching.

Will know for sure later today, but I’m expecting Al Montoya to be between the pipes for the first time since Jan. 5 while Corey Crawford is going to be in goal for the Blackhawks.

Neither team skated this morning, so I’ll try to provide a lineup update and any other notes later this afternoon.

Remember it’s a 6:05 p.m. puck drop here and I’ll be In the Box during the TSN Jets pre-game show between 5:50 and 6.

Categories: Hockey

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