It looked like the Winnipeg Jets were on a path to a solid victory on Thursday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs when they took a lead early in the third period. But two late goals by Toronto left Jets fans feeling blue.
The dominant storyline leading up to this game was the return Randy Carlyle. The former Winnipeg Jet defenseman and Manitoba Moose head coach and GM received a nice ovation from the crowd. He managed to maintain the Kitty scowl despite the warm feelings. Toronto goalie James Reimer also had a homecoming as he returned to his native province; the fans were less enthused with this story line.
Before the game, both teams probably looked at the other sides' current defense crew and started salivating. The Leafs saw Postma, Redmond and Clitsome and probably thought "who are these guys?" While the Jets saw Kostka, Fraser and Holzer and thought "we can take them."
As it turned out, both teams' D played reasonably well. Paul Postma butchered the puck on the power play leading to a goal and he looked a little shaky a couple other times. But the other lesser known defensemen had solid games.
The Jets started the game well, hemming the Leafs into their own end and getting a few scoring chances. Mark Stuart dinged the post with a shot and Andrew Ladd got a good opportunity that he could not bury. Eventually Bryan Little drew a penalty that led to a stagnant power play and Winnipeg's momentum was lost.
The first period ended scoreless, but the Jets struck early in the second. After a penalty to Nik Antropov for cross-checking Nazim Kadri, Winnipeg's penalty kill was put to the test. Tobias Enstrom caused a turnover in the defensive zone before passing the puck along to Bryan Little who was able to start a two-on-one break that Zach Redmond finished by shnarping a wrist shot top shelf for his first NHL goal.
Winnipeg took the lead again early in the third period when Bryan Little corralled the puck along the boards and sent the puck back to Grant Clitsome at the blue line. Clitsome let a shot rip that was screened by Andrew Ladd and found the back of the net. Clitsome was originally given credit for the goal, but eventually the goal was given to Ladd.
Toronto tied the game up with five minutes remaining when Matt Frattin drove to the front of the net while Cody Franson let a slapper go from the top of the faceoff circle. Frattin deflected the shot and it sailed by Pavelec who was in the process of moving out to challenge the shot.
Less than a minute later Toronto completed the comeback by scoring on the power play. Phil Kessel broke his early season scoring slump by potting his first goal of the year. The goal came on a pretty simple play where Tyler Bozak left a drop pass for Kessel who took a stride in from the blue line before snapping a shot to the top corner on Pavelec's glove side.
Pavelec is going to wish he had another chance at the Kessel goal, because while it was a sweet shot, it is a save you expect your goalie to make.
- The rarely seen concealing the puck penalty -- I did not even know the official name of the penalty before tonight -- was called twice in a two minute span. The call on Evander Kane was warranted, but James van Riemsdyk had every reason to be annoyed with the refs on his call.
- Little picked up two assists in the game and his line with Alexander Burmistrov and Andrew Ladd was Winnipeg's best line all night.
- Enstrom extended his point streak to eight games.
- Zach Redmond continues to impress and must have moved ahead of Paul Postma on the depth chart at this point. Redmond's 24:04 of ice time was second only to Ron Hainsey for the Jets. When Dustin Byfuglien and Zach Bogosian return to the lineup it will be interesting to see how the organization handles the situation.
- Winnipeg managed to outshoot Toronto 25-18. But the Leafs were solid on faceoffs, winning 35 to the Jets' 24.