TORONTO (AP) — Connor Hellebuyck made 36 saves, leading the Winnipeg Jets to a 4-3 win over the North Division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game series.
Andrew Copp had a goal and an assist and Josh Morrissey, Kyle Connor and Mason Appleton also scored for Winnipeg. Neal Pionk finished with three assists and Nikolaj Ehlers had two for the Jets, who trail the Maple Leafs by five points in the standings with two games in hand.
Winnipeg was coming off a 7-1 loss in Montreal on Saturday that snapped a four-game winning streak.
“We weren’t very good, right?” Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice said looking back to Saturday. “The whole entire team’s minus, both goalies don’t like their game.
“That wasn’t who we were.”
Morrissey, who played a season-high 29 minutes, said the Jets’ composure stood out in the wake of the Montreal loss as Winnipeg improved to 7-0-1 following a regulation loss in 2020-21.
“Nobody panicked,” he said. “It’s not like the next day we were singling guys out in video and going through all seven goals in slow motion where it feels like the world is ending, but just keeping an even-keel approach.
“It’s a 56-game season and we are going to have some of those here and there. You’ve got to let it go. We had a great practice (Monday), and I bet you no one was even thinking about that coming into the game.”
“We didn’t go searching,” Hellebuyck said. “We all believed in our game and we stuck to it. You could tell guys were hungry.
“They didn’t let it weigh in a negative way on their brains.”
Auston Matthews scored twice, raising his NHL-leading goal total to 20, and Zach Hyman added a goal for Toronto. Frederik Andersen stopped 19 shots as the Leafs dropped their third straight in regulation.
Toronto was coming off back-to-back defeats to Vancouver after sweeping the Edmonton Oilers three straight by a combined 13-1 .
“It wasn’t a bad game, but it definitely wasn’t our best,” Matthews said. “We had really good moments at times and had the puck in their zone, and were creating lots of chances. I thought in the third period we had a couple of really good looks.
“You gotta tip your hat to their goalie.”
The Maple Leafs and Jets play eight more times between now and April 24, including Thursday and Saturday at Scotiabank Arena.
Down 2-1 through 20 minutes, Winnipeg got even at 12:45 of the second period when Matthews tried to block Morrissey’s point shot, but instead saw it glance off his airborne skate and fool Andersen for the defenseman’s first goal of the season.
The Jets went ahead for the first time with 2:18 left when Ehlers found Connor from behind the Toronto net and he scored his 12th.
The Leafs had a couple of chances to make it a two-goal lead earlier in the period before Winnipeg tied it when Alexander Kerfoot had a chance from the slot on Hellebuyck and Ilya Mikheyev fanned on a tap-in off a pass from Morgan Rielly.
Down to five defenseman after Nathan Beaulieu took a shot off his hand, the Jets also came close as Mathieu Perreault was denied in tight by Andersen, and Blake Wheeler saw his sneaky deflection smothered by the Toronto goaltender.
Hellebuyck robbed Mitch Marner from close range four minutes into the third.
The Jets made it 4-2 at 7:53 when Appleton took a little pass from Copp before stepping around a sprawling Rielly and beating Andersen for his seventh of the season.
Toronto’s goalie then stopped Wheeler on a break with four minutes left in regulation to keep his team close.
Matthews scored his 20th of the season with 1:54 left in regulation and Andersen on the bench to make it 4-3.
The Leafs, who beat the Jets 3-1 in Toronto on Jan. 18 in the teams’ only meeting this season, opened the scoring at 8:16 of the first when Hyman took a pass from T.J. Brodie in his own zone and sliced through a the Winnipeg defense before beating Hellebuyck for his eighth of the season.
The Jets got even on their second man advantage of the game at 12:20 when Copp recovered a loose puck and finished off the sequence by tipping Pionk’s point shot for his fifth goal.
Toronto got that one back when the league’s top-ranked power play connected for the 26th time in 27 games. Matthews, who’s been bothered by a wrist/hand injury and had failed to score in his last five outings, tipped his NHL-best 19th past Hellebuyck off Rielly’s point shot.
NOTES: Matthews’ 20 goals have come in 24 games. … Rielly celebrated his 27th birthday. … The Jets play 17 times in 31 days in March.
The Jets and Maple Leafs play the second game of the three-game set on Thursday night. The finale is Saturday.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports