Matthews ends season with 41 goals, Maple Leafs fall to Jets
Auston Matthews finished the season with an NHL-high 41 goals after not scoring in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place on Friday.
Kyle Connor scored twice, and Connor Hellebuyck made 34 saves for the Jets (30-23-3), who got their second straight win and third in their past 12 games. Winnipeg is the No. 3 seed in the Scotia North Division and will play the Edmonton Oilers, the No. 2 seed, in the Stanley Cup First Round beginning Wednesday.
“We’re going into these with wide-open eyes, excited about what’s going to happen and kind of looking at figuring out how good we really can be,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “We know the real challenge starting on the road against the team that we will face, but looking forward to it. There’s kind of a sense of excitement in that room. Win a game, you feel good. You get to play fun games now.”
Jack Campbell made 20 saves for the Maple Leafs (35-14-7), who had a nine-game point streak end (7-0-2). Toronto is the No. 1 seed in the North and will play the Montreal Canadiens, the No. 4 seed, in the first round beginning Thursday.
“It’s pretty cool,” Maple Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds said. “Original Six rivalry and it’s the Leafs versus the Canadiens. I’m extremely excited to be part of this series. I just can’t wait to get it started. … It’s going to be a blast.”
Toronto captain John Tavares said, “I’m sure it will be intense. Obviously there’s a lot to play for. A special rivalry. So I’m looking forward to being part of it and having the opportunity. We have just under a week to prepare, rest up and get ready to go. So we’re excited.”
Pierre Engvall gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead at 7:15 of the first period with a wrist shot from high in the left face-off circle.
Mason Appleton tied it 1-1 at 1:13 of the second period from the low slot after Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly turned over the puck deep in his zone.
“You win the last game and you’re feeling better, and to get two in a row with that win tonight, it’s big for our club,” Appleton said. “You win two and you kind of forget about the losing streak. We’re a good hockey team. … We know what we’re capable of, and I think we’re going to show that here as we start the postseason.”
Ilya Mikheyev scored on a rebound to put Toronto ahead 2-1 at 5:25 of the second.
“I think we’ve got a good mix of guys in their prime, and experience,” Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza said. “I think we’ve gone through some hardships as a group. I think there’s guys in the room, I feel like we have a lot to prove come playoff time after last year. We’ve been a hungry team since losing (in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers last season) to [the] Columbus [Blue Jackets], and now it’s our time to show we’ve matured as a group, and we’ve played better hockey and we’ve focused in on things that we knew were weaknesses last year.”
Connor scored on a 2-on-1 to tie it 2-2 at 13:52 of the second before putting Winnipeg in front 3-2 with a one-timer from the right face-off dot at 4:21 of the third period.
“It’s always good for confidence. Everybody loves to score goals,” said Connor, who scored for a third straight game. “It helps in that sense. It’s pretty nice to hit the ground running. I think our game’s right, and we can draw from that confidence and carry this forward.”
Jansen Harkins scored his first goal of the season into an empty net for the 4-2 final with 52 seconds left.
Winnipeg forward Paul Stastny did not play in the third period, and forward Pierre-Luc Dubois left during the third, each with an undisclosed injury. Maurice said each move was precautionary and that they’ll be in the lineup for Game 1 at Edmonton.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) May 14, 2021
On to the playoffs. pic.twitter.com/bbdk6ADsaN
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) May 15, 2021
Leafs 🆚 the North 🇨🇦
.778 v Oilers (6-1-2)
.750 v Canadiens (7-2-1)
.722 v Flames (6-2-1)
.667 v Senators (5-2-2)
.611 v Canucks (5-3-1)
.600 v Jets (6-4-0)
.688 overall (35-14-7)
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) May 15, 2021
With regulation loss tonight, Toronto will finish sixth in the overall NHL standings
1⃣ Avalanche .732
2⃣ Knights .732
3⃣ Hurricanes .714
4⃣ Panthers .705
5⃣ Penguins .688
6⃣ #LeafsForever .688
7⃣ Capitals .688
8⃣ Lightning .670
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) May 15, 2021
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) May 15, 2021
Auston Matthews wins the Rocket Richard! pic.twitter.com/tnoqrJh01B
— The Leafs Nation (@TLNdc) May 15, 2021