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Game Recap: Winnipeg Jets vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Winnipeg loses a razor-tight decision in a shootout after a fun, eventful game.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Winnipeg Jets James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

The Winnipeg Jets have had a strange few days. After a bit of a muted stomping at the hands of Toronto on Wednesday, the Jets suddenly found out their weekend slate of games was cancelled due to a COVID outbreak in Vancouver. While those games have been postponed, Winnipeg still had another game against the Maple Leafs before the weekend truly kicked off. Some part of me felt like the Jets would have a better effort on Friday, and the team delivered with a rollicking game (by Winnipeg standards) that ended in heartbreak.

The First Period

Right after the puck drop, you could tell Toronto and Winnipeg were eager for action. Both teams had an aggressive press, and the Scheifele line immediately created some quality offensive zone possession. It’s always nice to see Jets forwards being aggressive, but it was even nicer to see the blueline also stepping up. Josh Morrissey had one of his most involved outings in ages; this time, in a positive manner. He was aggressively carrying the puck and seemingly tracked back effectively on several odd-man rushes against. I don’t expect this from him every night, but if anyone needed a big game, it was JoMo.

Despite the entertaining back and forth period, neither team was able to break the deadlock. Jack Campbell and Connor Hellebuyck answered every challenge, while the skaters had some issues finishing on great opportunities. Given the effort earlier in the week, it was as good of a start as you could hope for against a strong opponent.

The Second Period

Things got pretty heated in the middle frame. Toronto and Winnipeg both exchanged strong surges, with the Jets opening the period on the stronger foot. As the game wore on, Toronto started to take control and earned a few quirky power plays that...well, let’s just say they were of the game management type. Winnipeg looked a little gassed and started making more and more defensive miscues. On one sequence, Travis Dermott took advantage of a rapid zone cycle and Winnipeg’s defenders in odd spots to score from the point. The shot was the sort that Hellebuyck usually handles with no issues, but this one just beat him cleanly. D’oh!

Thankfully, Winnipeg didn’t get too discouraged and managed to equalize the scoreline after a few massive shifts late in the period. The Jets created 2 or 3 odd-man rushes and finally capitalized on the last opportunity with Lowry and Copp. Stonehands Andrew (Stonehandrew?) cleanly potted a goal from a great cross-slot feed to give the Jets a lifeline. The scoreline would hold for the remainder of the period.

The Third Period and OT/Shootout

Man, Jack Campbell is gonna be a pain. In a period that started out evenly, but eventually saw Winnipeg rapidly pick up the pace, the Jets poured it on against Campbell to no avail. The overly friendly netminder someone made miraculous read after read, stonewalling Kyle Connor and Paul Stastny like it was child’s play. Hellebuyck had to make a few acrobatic saves of his own, but not quite on the level of what Campbell was doing. Both goalies put in a ridiculous shift and pushed the 1-1 scoreline to overtime.

Winnipeg seemed to be ready for a game-winner in the extra period, until Pierre-Luc Dubois got called for a trip halfway through. I hated this call because guys had been tripping each other the whole night, yet almost none of those infractions were called. To make matters worse, Dubois was arguably being illegally held before he even committed the foul. It is what it is. The Jets managed to survive the penalty and take the game to a shootout. Despite a bevy of talented shooters on both sides, Toronto emerged victorious on 1 lone shootout goal. Campbell and Hellebuyck, take a bow. We may be seeing this guys against one another in the post-season.

Three Takeaways

This was a fun, if stressful, performance.

The Jets answered a crappy game on Wednesday with a much better performance. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but this had an air of playoffs around the affair. The game was tight, fierce, and fun. Getting a well-earned point out of it all made the game even sweeter.

Josh Morrissey looked a lot more assertive.

The beleaguered defender wasn’t perfect, but this was a much improved game for him. Morrissey’s season has been nothing short of a disaster, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him have a solid outing. If he can keep this up, it’d be a massive burden lifted off of Winnipeg’s shoulders.

Ehlers and Dubois had a strange night.

Nik has seemed a bit slow or something over the past few games. He still has moments where he singlehandedly controls a shift, but there have been an increasing number of instances where he doesn’t seem engaged. I wonder if he’s got some nagging injury. Dubois, on the other hand, was just plain bad. He’s struggling to find a fit down the middle right now. I wouldn’t mind him moving to a different line or being flexed out wide again.