Wheeler leads Jets to 4-3 shootout win over Maple Leafs
“Are you serious? We’ve got places to be,” joked Wheeler after scoring the decisive goal Wednesday night.
Toronto’s Auston Matthews scored twice, including the game-tying goal with 14 seconds left in the third, for his 30th and 31st goals of the season.
Matthews became the first player in Maple Leafs history to have 30 or more goals in the first four seasons of his career. He also joined Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin as the only active player to accomplish that feat.
Wheeler helped the Jets overshadow Matthews’ milestone in the shootout when he slowed up before snapping the puck past Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen.
“I saw with the first three guys he was playing pretty deep in the net so I tried to show him a little bit of speed and back him off, then slow down on him,” said Wheeler, whose winner came after Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine scored in the shootout. “Our goalies tell us all the time that it’s so hard when you’re stopped on the goal line and you’re trying to read what’s coming next.”
Frederik Andersen stopped 25 shots two days after being pulled in the second period of the Maple Leafs’ 6-4 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
It’s the first time Toronto has lost back-to-back games since falling to Philadelphia and Colorado on Dec. 3-4.
After pulling Andersen at the end of the third period and calling a timeout with less than a minute left to play, the Maple Leafs won a faceoff in Winnipeg’s end. The puck came out to Matthews who rifled a slap shot past Hellebuyck.
Andersen had the crowd on its feet twice in the extra period, drawing chants of “Freddie!” with game-saving stops on breakaways.
The goalie’s late-game heroics were a far cry from a bad goal he allowed early in the first period.
Ehlers opened scoring four minutes into the game on a fluke play. Andersen seemingly tripped over his own feet as he came out to play the puck, falling to the ice and letting the puck cycle behind the net, where Ehlers picked it up and quickly scored.
Just as the in-arena announcer finished announcing Winnipeg’s goal, Mitch Marner backhanded a pass to Matthews, who snapped the puck past Hellebuyck to tie it 1-1.
With the Jets shorthanded, Appleton stripped John Tavares of the puck at Toronto’s own blue line and broke in on Andersen, scoring his first goal of the season on a wrist shot for a 2-1 Winnipeg lead with two minutes to go in the first.
Scheifele restored Winnipeg’s lead 11:45 into the second, taking a feed from Kyle Connor and pausing momentarily to line up his shot before firing it into the net.
NOTES: Eight players from Canada’s gold-medal winning national junior team were honored in a pregame ceremony. Kevin Bahl, Nico Daws, Ty Dellandrea, Jamie Drysdale, Aidan Dudas, Liam Foudy, Connor McMichael and Akil Thomas gathered at center ice to drop the puck for Scheifele and Tavares. … A moment of silence honoring the 63 Canadians who died in a plane crash in Iran earlier Wednesday was observed following the ceremonial puck drop. A video of a Canadian flag at half staff was played as players from the Maple Leafs, Jets, and Canada’s junior team all stood solemnly on the ice before the singing of the national anthem.
Jets: At Boston Bruins on Thursday.
Maple Leafs: At Florida Panthers on Sunday.
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