I could honestly just skip the broader summary of Winnipeg’s regulation against the Toronto Maple Leafs because you’ve read it before. The Jets, who do not handle speedy forechecking and pressure well, basically got punched in the jaw by a dangerous Leafs squad. Toronto was all over the Jets in the offensive zone, forcing turnovers, passing like the Harlem Globetrotters, and generally making life miserable for goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
Both teams connected in the opening 5 or so minutes of the game, with Nik Ehlers and Auston Matthews capitalizing on some chaotic sequences to tie the scoreline. The Leafs, though, were relentless and pushed Winnipeg to the absolute brink on numerous occasions. Incredibly, it was the Leafs who ended up blinking first, conceding a sloppy shorthanded goal to Mason Appleton. Kyle Connor forced a neutral zone scuffle that Toronto nearly recovered on. Appleton finished off John Tavares, however, and fought his way to the net to score a beauty of a go-ahead goal. Hockey is hilarious, man.
Hockey then stopped being funny when the Leafs opened the second period with an ugly, ugly goal. Andrew Copp, usually Mr. Reliable, fed a random pass back towards the blueline in Toronto’s end. The pass was suppose to reach a Jets D, but instead sailed through the neutral zone. It sprang a Leafs 3-on-1 that Luca Sbisa never had a chance of defending. Dmitry Timashov made it 2-2 and we all collectively groaned. Sports got funny again, though, when Toronto made the same exact play a few minutes later. Tavares and Justin Holl had a major SNAFU along the walls that led to a 3-on-1 for Winnipeg. Mark Scheifele made Toronto pay and put the Jets back in control of their destiny.
The third period saw a bit more pushback from the Jets, but Toronto still led the way. With the goalie pulled, the Leafs went into full-court press mode. Matthews, who had a whale of an offensive evening on all but the scoresheet, blistered a second goal to rescue the Leafs. It took us to overtime, which I fully expected to end in sadness. Instead, Winnipeg and Toronto played one of the most exhilarating, breathtaking overtimes I’ve ever seen. If you haven’t seen it, drop what you’re doing and watch it NOW. It was AMAZING. Despite Winnipeg having a solid 3 or so breakaways, Freddie Andersen bailed the Leafs out and took it to a shootout. Blake Wheeler was having none of it, though, and called game to win it for the good guys. Holy crap.
Oh my god I am gonna die if I watch Jets-Leafs overtime again.
Seriously, this was the sort of magic that makes you a believer in Winnipeg hockey again. The Jets got curbstomped at 5v5 but in 3v3, they were a nigh unstoppable force. Also, Ehlers played in OT, which made me slightly happier. But whatever, even if Winnipeg lost in the extra time period, I would have been thrilled with a point. That was a completely bonkers overtime sequence.
Patrik Laine’s shot is absolutely terrifying and underutilized.
If you haven’t seen Laine’s shootout goal, again, drop what you’re doing and watch it NOW. This kid is friggin’ ridiculous, and the more he grows the rest of his game, the more it becomes clear that I will never accept him playing outside of Winnipeg. The Jets really need to feed Patrik more, especially on the power play. He has a release that could shatter the Earth if he felt like.
Winnipeg sucked but I’m not going to complain.
This is one of those games that was cathartic, even if the Jets were really quite terrible. Winnipeg was scarcely competitive for 60 minutes, but in that 5 additional minutes of brilliance, the Jets reminded us why they can be so dangerous at full-speed. If they ever find a way to unchain themselves at even-strength, the playoffs could be an absolute thrillride. As it is, the Jets are wild.