SPORTS

Jets blow golden opportunity in playoff race, lose to Maple Leafs in overtime

02/21/2015 10:23 EST | Updated 04/23/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Even with the Winnipeg Jets in a playoff race, the Toronto Maple Leafs looked like the team hungry for points in a 4-3 overtime victory Saturday night.

The Leafs initiated physical, chippy play and came back from a third-period deficit to keep the Jets from picking up the two points they need in a crowded Western Conference picture. Winnipeg got only one point and has a tenuous hold on a wild-card spot with plenty of teams chasing.

"Definitely a tough loss. I think we weren't our best today," said winger Michael Frolik, who scored the goal-ahead goal late in the second period. "Third period, yeah, they got good offensive-zone time and we weren't on our forecheck, we weren't in our game."

The Jets (30-20-11) had a better effort than Thursday in Washington when they were thumped by the playoff-bound Capitals. But against a Leafs team that had lost 23 of its past 27 games and played on the road Friday, it was troubling that they couldn't take advantage.

Coach Paul Maurice said his team needed a couple of days to heal up and for players to get their legs back.

"We aren't getting up the ice on the puck quite as well as we're capable," Maurice said. "I think we'll get that back. In a couple days we'll be good."

With 71 points on the season and the San Jose Sharks, Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings not far back, the Jets better re-discover their winning ways quickly. Players were all too eager to put this one in the past.

"Obviously we came out strong and we had our good parts of the game, but we let up a lot," said centre Mark Scheifele, who scored his ninth of the season. "We've got to move on from it and be better."

This was a much better showing from the Leafs (24-31-5), a physical, gritty effort capped off by James van Riemsdyk's overtime winner that beat Michael Hutchinson clean.

"There's no secret I've been in a bit of a goal-scoring slump, and hopefully this can kick start me down the stretch here," van Riemsdyk said.

Leo Komarov, Daniel Winnik and Nazem Kadri scored in regulation for Toronto. Goaltender Jonathan Bernier stopped 31 of the 34 shots he faced.

Winnik, now the Leafs' biggest trade chip before the March 2 deadline, had a goal and an assist. With the Jets and other teams looking for forwards, he showed his worth.

"He is our best penalty-killer and he's been able to play on a third line or he can play on a first line, he can move back down, he can play left wing, right wing," interim coach Peter Horachek said. "He is very versatile. He's a smart guy. Tonight he got into a little tussle. I think that's necessary, too, for guys to step up in important times."

The Jets could use someone like that to step up now as the race heats up in the West. Recent trade acquisitions Drew Stafford (two assists) and Tyler Myers (one assist) contributed, but Winnipeg will need more from its top players.

Notes — Dustin Byfuglien was back at forward for Winnipeg after playing last game on defence. Adam Pardy returned to the blue-line to fill that spot. ... With Joffrey Lupul back in the Leafs' lineup after a four-game absence, winger Brandon Kozun was made a healthy scratch despite scoring Friday night at Carolina. ... Before the game, the Leafs announced Syl Apps and George Armstrong, both Stanley Cup-winning captains, will be the next players honoured on Legends Row outside Air Canada Centre.

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