Matthews scores 24th goal as Leafs earn 3-1 win over Jets
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Auston Matthews scored his league-leading 24th goal and goaltender Jack Campbell stayed unbeaten this season and the Toronto Maple Leafs downed the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 on Wednesday to extend their lead atop the North Division to three points.
Adding to the Jets woes, captain Blake Wheeler did not play after the first period. There was no immediate word on a reason for his absence.
"We'll get it looked at (Thursday). ... He just wasn't feeling it right so we want to be careful with him," Jets coach Paul Maurice said.
"Truly I don't know. He may be back on the ice full-on next game," he added. "It's not COVID-related."
The teams meet again Friday at Bell MTS Place as Toronto continues its four-game road trip.
Zach Hyman and Alex Kerfoot also scored for Toronto. Mitch Marner, with two assists, earned his13th multi-point game of the season.
"I don't know what the numbers are, but I'd imagine if you go up 2-0 in a game you're going to win most of the time. It's hard to come back in this league, especially that early," Kerfoot said. "It's nice to have that cushion."
Josh Morrissey scored for the Jets.
The Leafs went 0-for-5 on the power play, extending a drought that goes back to March 9. But they did score short-handed.
Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe opted to pass on the power-play deficiencies, choosing instead to see the positives.
"It's a big road win here for us. There's a lot of things you could pick out about it that we could do better," he said. "We'll certainly get to work on that (Thursday). But just focus on the fact that we had a really good start here to set us up for a chance to win the game and we did exactly that."
Winnipeg, back home after a seven-game road trip, had won four of its previous five, including a 5-1 win Monday in Calgary. But it trailed 2-0 after a sluggish first period that saw Toronto dominate despite going 0-for-3 on the power play.
"I was worried about this one right from the day the schedule came out," Maurice said.
The Leafs were coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to visiting Edmonton on Monday. Toronto had won its previous three outings, including two in overtime, rebounding from a poor stretch that saw it lose six of seven.
With No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen back in Toronto awaiting further injury evaluation of a lower-body injury, Campbell started for the fourth time in the past five games. Campbell, who missed the Edmonton game Monday with a lower-body injury, made 26 saves for the win. He improved to 7-0-0 on the season.
It was career game No. 299 as a Jet for goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who stopped 23 shots. Only Ondrej Pavelec (379) has played 300-plus games for the franchise.
Matthews opened the scoring at 4:40 to punctuate a sharp Leafs opening. Hyman drove to the net and Winnipeg's Pierre Luc-Dubois and Derek Forbort ran into each other, leaving Matthews to score from close range.
Forbort, in pain after the collision, briefly went to the Jets dressing room.
Matthews has scored the opening goal of the game six times this season. Marner, with an assist on Matthews' goal, ran his points streak against the Jets to five games this season, the first Leaf to have a five-game point streak against Winnipeg.
Hyman made it 2-0 at 10:47, poking the puck in from in-close after Matthews hit the post following a nice move by Marner as the Leafs top line swarmed the Winnipeg net. The Jets unsuccessfully challenged for goalie interference on Hyman.
Toronto held a 13-2 edge in shots before Winnipeg closed the margin to 14-6 at the end of the first. Hyman had six shots alone in the period.
The Jets had more life in the second, outshooting Toronto 16-7 in the period. But despite three straight Toronto penalties, they had to settle for exchanging goals with the Leafs.
Paul Stastny appeared to lose a tooth after taking T.J. Brodie's stick to the mouth late in the period. Kerfoot scored short-handed on the ensuing double-minor penalty, outpacing Morrissey after the puck got out of the Toronto zone.
Morrissey redeemed himself by scoring on the same power play, his shot beating Campbell through traffic at 17:15, with 6 seconds remaining in the first of Brodie's two minors.
Toronto played a controlled third period to preserve the win.
NOTES: The Leafs were the last team in the North Division to visit Winnipeg this season. The teams split the first four meetings in Toronto. ... After playing 12 of 14 games on the road, the Jets play 10 of the next 15 at home starting Monday.
The teams play again Friday night.
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Updated March 31, 2021