Wheeler Lifts Jets to 4-3 Shootout Win Over Maple Leafs

TORONTO — Blake Wheeler scored the winner in the shootout as the Winnipeg Jets edged the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 on Wednesday, overshadowing a milestone performance by Auston Matthews.

Nikolaj Ehlers, Mason Appleton and Mark Scheifele scored in regulation time as the Jets (24-16-4) won their second straight game.

Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves for the win in Winnipeg’s net.

Matthews scored twice, including the game-tying goal with 14 seconds left in the third, for Toronto (24-15-6). Dmytro Timashov also had a goal.

Jason Spezza and Matthews had goals in the shootout for Toronto, but Patrik Laine, Scheifele and Wheeler gave Winnipeg the 3-2 edge in the shootout.

Frederik Andersen stopped 25 shots two days after being pulled early in the second period of the Maple Leafs’ 6-4 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Monday.

Toronto Maple Leafs Frederik Andersen
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

It’s the first time Toronto has lost back-to-back games since falling to Philadelphia and Colorado on Dec. 3 and 4.

After pulling Andersen at the end of the third period and calling a timeout with less than a minute left to play, the Maple Leafs won a faceoff in Winnipeg’s end. The puck came out to Matthews who rifled a slapshot past Hellebuyck to the delight of the 19,397 in attendance.

Andersen had Scotiabank Arena on its feet twice in the extra period, drawing chants of “Freddie!” with game-saving stops on breakaways.

The goalie’s late-game heroics were a far cry from a bad goal he allowed early in the first period.

Ehlers opened scoring four minutes into the game on a flukey play. Andersen seemingly tripped over his own feet as he came out to play the puck, falling to the ice and letting the puck cycle behind the net, where Ehlers picked it up and quickly scored.

Nikolaj Ehlers
Winnipeg Jets’ Nikolaj Ehlers and the Jets bench (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Just as the in-arena announcer finished announcing Winnipeg’s goal, Mitch Marner backhanded a pass to Matthews, who snapped the puck past Hellebuyck to tie it 1-1.

Matthews joined Washington’s Alex Ovechkin as the only active player to start his NHL career with four consecutive seasons with 30 goals or more. He’s also the first player in Maple Leafs history to accomplish the feat in his first four seasons.

With the Jets shorthanded, Appleton stripped John Tavares of the puck at Toronto’s own blue line and broke in on Andersen with the Maple Leafs captain right on his tail. Appleton wristed his first goal of the year past Andersen for a 2-1 Winnipeg lead with two minutes to go in the first.

Timashov slammed home a rebound after a 3-on-2 breakaway with Kasperi Kapanen and Adam Brooks six minutes into the second period to tie the game 2-2.

Dmytro Timashov Toronto Maple Leafs
Dmytro Timashov, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Scheifele restored Winnipeg’s lead 11:45 into the second, taking a cross-ice feed from Kyle Connor and pausing momentarily to line up his shot before firing it into the net.

Eight players from Canada’s gold-medal winning national junior team were honoured in a pre-game ceremony. Kevin Bahl, Nico Daws, Ty Dellandrea, Jamie Drysdale, Aidan Dudas, Liam Foudy, Connor McMichael and Akil Thomas all congregated at centre ice to drop the puck for Scheifele and Tavares.

A moment of silence honouring the 63 Canadians who died in a plane crash in Iran earlier Wednesday was observed following the ceremonial puck drop. A video of a Canadian flag at half staff was played as players from the Maple Leafs, Jets, and Canada’s junior team all stood solemnly on the ice before the singing of the national anthem.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2020.


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John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press