The Toronto Maple Leafs staged a mini comeback with just over five minutes to play to defeat the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 on Thursday night. The Leafs got late goals from Matt Frattin and Phil Kessel to escape the MTS Centre with a crucial two points. The Jets are a team the Leafs figure to be battling against for a playoff spot down the stretch, so winning the game in regulation was key. Toronto now moves over .500 on the year with a 6-5 record so far. Here are a few things that stood out from the game.
Phil Kessel finally scored
Not only did Kessel break out of his scoring slump, but he did it in a big way. Kessel buried a beautiful snapshot from just inside the circle for his first goal of the season, and that go ahead tally with under five minutes to play stood up as the game winner. Credit Kessel for not getting discouraged and continuing to pepper the net with shots. He led the Leafs with four on this night and now has 46 on the season, which ranks second in the National Hockey League. With that elusive first one out of the way, Kessel could very easily catch fire in the next few games.
Nikolai Kulemin’s play is concerning
Kulemin continues to struggle a little offensively and failed to record a shot tonight, but it has been his defensive play of late that is more troubling. Kulemin has had a habit of turning the puck over this season, and against the Jets he gave Grant Clitsome too much space to get a point shot through on the second goal. He is now a minus-2 on the campaign even though Kulemin is normally one of the Leafs’ better two-way forwards. He hasn’t finished a year as a minus player since 2008-09.
Leafs continue to excel on face-offs
Toronto has done a nice job in the face-off circle this season. They won 59% of the draws against the Jets and now upped their season rating to 53%, which is good enough for fourth in the NHL. Some people may think it isn’t an impactful stat, but every bit of extra puck possession that limits your opponent’s opportunities counts for a young team like the Leafs.
Matt Frattin and Nazem Kadri quickly becoming the Go-to guys
With Kessel struggling to find the back of the net and Joffrey Lupul out for an extended period of time, Frattin and Kadri are now the focal point of the offense. Kadri assisted on a Frattin goal against the Jets that was more timely than pretty. The two Leaf youngsters, along with Leo Komarov, have been Toronto’s most consistent line in recent games. Both Kadri and Frattin sit first and second respectively in Leaf scoring, and they will have to keep up the pace if the team expects to continue winning.
Tyler Bozak stood out
A few Leafs had strong games on this night, but you could easily make an argument that Bozak was the best of the bunch. He scored a great shorthanded goal on an individual effort that killed any Jets momentum after they took a 1-0 nothing lead. Then Bozak set up Kessel for the game winning goal on a rush where he gained the blue line with tremendous speed. Bozak has shown on multiple occasions now that this is the type of play he is capable of, but he has to find a way to do it on a nightly basis.