TORONTO (AP)Mitch Marner scored twice and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 Monday night.
John Tavares also scored and Frederik Andersen made 27 saves for Toronto in first of 10 meetings between the North Division rivals.
”We were good at keeping them to the outside,” Andersen said. ”Then as they turn the puck over or after a shot, I thought we were good at breaking out and pushing it down to their end and making them defend and making them a little bit tired.”
Kyle Connor scored for Winnipeg, and Connor Hellebuyck stopped 35 shots inside an empty Scotiabank Arena because of COVID-19 protocols.
The Jets were without star Patrik Laine, who sat out with an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
Following an even first period that saw both teams force good saves from Hellebuyck and Andersen, the game tilted heavily in Toronto’s favor in the second.
The Maple Leafs got the game’s first goal at 5:28 at the tail end of a power play. Hellebuyck kicked Jake Muzzin’s point shot out to William Nylander, who quickly fed Tavares in the slot for him to bury his third of the season with the Jets’ goalie out of position.
Toronto, which dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen, was outshooting Winnipeg 13-0 after that goal, and 19-1 midway through the period. The Jets looked to get some momentum on a man-advantage of their own later in the period, but Hellebuyck was forced to stop two short-handed chances off the stick of Ilya Mikheyev.
The MapleLeafs made it 2-0 with 1:21 left when Auston Matthews carried the puck into the offensive zone before finding Justin Holl. His one-timer hit the post behind Hellebucyk, and Marner was there to poke home his second of the year.
”You get slow against anybody in this league, you’re going to have a problem,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. ”Slow leads to bigger gaps and they certainly exploited those.”
Connor snapping his second past Andersen with under a minute remaining on the clock.
”You don’t like it when it’s happening,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. ”Now you’re through the game and you get the win, you look back through it. We’re trying to get better here as a team. It’s moments like that, that are going to allow us to reflect and talk about it as a team and see where we can better.
”We’ll take our lessons.”
Winnipeg got an early third-period power play after Muzzin took a holding penalty, but Andersen was there at every turn – including a great stop on Mark Scheifele that would have had the fans inside Scotiabank Arena chanting ”Freddie! Freddie!” in a normal season.
Andersen didn’t dress for Saturday’s 3-2 victory over the Senators in Ottawa, instead putting in a day of work followed by a night of rest in the wake of two shaky starts to open the schedule.
”Freddie’s one of the best in the league,” Tavares said. ”We’ve got so much faith in him. We were a much more connected, solid team over the last couple games.
”We’ve got many areas to clean up, but we know the big saves he’s going to make. We only want to make it easier and better for him.”
The Jets continued to make their push as the period wore on, and got a power play with 5:15 left in regulation when Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly cleared the puck over the glass for a delay-of-game infraction, but Andersen and the penalty killers did the job.
Marner sealed it with an empty-netter with 22.6 seconds left.
”We’ve got to be ready to play tight-knit games,” Marner said. ”We’ve got to make sure we keep doing the right things, playing the right way.”
Toronto announced before the game rookie forward Nick Robertson will miss at least four weeks with a knee injury, which forced the team to put both third-string goalie Aaron Dell and veteran forward Jason Spezza on waivers for salary cap purposes. Dell was claimed by the New Jersey Devils on Monday, while Spezza made it through and dressed against Winnipeg.
Mikko Lehtonen, who led all KHL defensemen in scoring last season, made his NHL debut for Toronto. On the other side, Logan Stanley made his NHL debut for Winnipeg with Tucker Poolman still on the league’s COVID-19 list.
Jets: At Ottawa on Tuesday night to open a two-game series.
Maple Leafs: Host Edmonton on Wednesday night to open a two-game series.