Leafs rally in 3rd to beat Jets, but lose Matthews to injury
Toronto star leaves game with shoulder injury in 2nd period
Down two goals and their best player through 40 minutes, the Toronto Maple Leafs talked in the second intermission about getting back to what has made them successful early on this season.
That speed and puck pursuit eventually proved to be the difference against a weary opponent Saturday.
Kasperi Kapanen scored the winner with 2:45 left in regulation after Jake Gardiner tied the game 26 seconds earlier as the Leafs overcame the loss of star centre Auston Matthews and a 2-0 deficit in the third period to beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-2.
"We hadn't been playing the game we wanted to," said winger Mitch Marner, who set up Toronto's first two goals. "We knew we needed to get pucks in, we needed to be quicker on our feet.
"That's when we're at our best."
Nazem Kadri had the other goal for Toronto (8-3-0), which got 22 stops from Frederik Andersen as the Leafs snapped a three-game losing streak at home.
Watch highlight's of the Leafs victory over Winnipeg:
Matthews injures shoulder
Matthews left the game early in the second with a shoulder injury and did not return. Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said the 21-year-old is set be re-evaluated on Monday and will not play that night against the Calgary Flames.
"It's tough," Marner added. "He's a big part of this team, everyone knows that.
"Hopefully we get him back soon."
Mike Babcock says Matthews won't practise tomorrow and won't play Monday against the Flames—@markhmasters
The Jets, who were playing for the eighth time in two weeks, left immediately after the loss for Finland, where they will battle the Florida Panthers in Helsinki on Thursday and Friday.
"It got away from us in the third," Winnipeg defenceman Jacob Trouba said. "They were on us in the defensive zone, they caused the turnovers."
Trailing 2-0 through two periods, Kadri got Toronto within one at 6:33 of the third off a nice feed from Marner for his second goal of the season and second in as many games after going nine straight without one to open the schedule.
"We never feel like we're down and out," said Kadri, who was reunited with Marner and Patrick Marleau when Matthews went down. "We scored and that got the ball rolling."
Hellebuyck made a couple of nice stops to keep his team ahead, but could do nothing on the equalizer as Gardiner, who scored his first the season in the 500th game of his career, jumped into the slot and beat the Jets netminder upstairs with 3:11 left.
"If you're down a goal you're cheating a little bit harder for offence," said Gardiner, whose parents were in the building. "The puck just squirted out and I got in on that."
Kapanen then roofed the winner from in tight — his sixth of the campaign — on the very next shift.
"We started pushing," Kapanen said. "[Zach Hyman] and John [Tavares], they were doing some good work behind the net and it just popped out to me.
"Lucky enough I was able to put it in."
The Jets led 1-0 after the first and doubled their lead at the 11-minute mark of the second when Kadri gave the puck away to Scheifele at the offensive blue-line. The Jets centre raced the other way and beat Andersen for his sixth goal and fourth in as many games.
Toronto lost Matthews 90 seconds into the period after Trouba delivered a clean shoulder-to-shoulder check at the side of Winnipeg's net.
"Trouba's a heavy defenceman," Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. "When he hits, he hits hard."
Matthews, who came into the game tied for third in the NHL with 16 points despite failing to find the scoresheet in the last three games, immediately skated to the bench before heading straight to the locker-room.
He missed 20 games last season due to injury, including a month on the shelf because of a right shoulder problem.
If Matthews is out for any length of time, it would mean the Leafs will be minus two-thirds of the line of Marleau-Matthews-William Nylander, a restricted free agent still mired in a contract impasse, that Babcock envisioned following the addition of Tavares.
9 NHL social media accounts we'd like to see ... in 90 seconds:
In the second period, the Leafs paid tribute to Stompin' Tom Connors and his Hockey Song, with Tim Hicks performing the iconic song for the Scotiabank Arena crowd.
Watch Hicks' tribute to The Hockey Song