Winnipeg 5 Toronto 2
TORONTO — Nikolaj Ehlers scored twice and Connor Hellebuyck made 31 saves as the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 on Thursday.
Kyle Connor added two goals, including one into an empty net, to go along with an assist, while Mark Scheifele had a goal and two assists for Winnipeg (27-14-3). Neal Pionk chipped in with two assists as the Jets moved within three points of the Leafs for top spot in the North Division.
John Tavares, with a goal and an assist, and Alex Galchenyuk replied for Toronto (28-12-4). Jack Campbell, who started the season 11-0-0 prior to Monday’s 4-2 loss in Montreal to the Canadiens, allowed three goals on six shots in the first period before getting pulled in favour of David Rittich. Acquired on Sunday from the Calgary Flames and an overtime loser in his Leafs debut Tuesday against his former team, Rittich finished with 16 saves.
The teams are scheduled to meet again next Wednesday, Friday and Saturday in Winnipeg to wrap up the season series, with Toronto still leading 4-3-0, although two of Winnipeg’s losses came after regulation.
The Jets, who were playing the second of a back-to-back after securing a series split in the nation’s capital Wednesday against the Senators, finished their five-game road trip through Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto 4-1-0.
Toronto was minus Auston Matthews — the NHL leader in goals with 32 in 40 games — because of injury, while Jets captain Blake Wheeler (concussion) sat out a fifth consecutive games.
Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said Matthews, who briefly stepped on the ice for Thursday’s morning skate before leaving, is day-to-day and not expected to be out long-term. When asked if the injury was the same wrist issue that caused Matthews to miss three games this earlier this season, Keefe answered: “It’s similar, but not the same.”
With Matthews sidelined, Tavares skated between Galchenyuk and Mitch Marner on Toronto’s first line.
That unit clicked 3:41 into the first when Galchenyuk took a pass from Marner and beat Hellebuyck upstairs for his third goal of the season and second with the Leafs on a play that needed another look to make sure it entered Winnipeg’s net.
Toronto’s power play — a head-scratching 1 for 39 coming into Thursday dating back to March 9 — got a two-man advantage for 71 seconds, but was unable to break through.
And it was all Jets from there the rest of the period.
The visitors connected nine seconds into their first power play when Ehlers scored his 19th on a shot through Campbell at 10:45 to make it 1-1.
Connor then took a nice feed from Scheifele and retook the team lead in goals with his 20th on shot off the rush just 27 seconds later.
Winnipeg kept coming and went up by two at 13:54 — its third goal in 3:09 — when both Toronto defencemen pinched, allowing Scheifele to race in alone on Campbell to score his 17th and end the goaltender’s night.