John Tavares scored two power-play goals, and the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 to spoil the debut of coach Rick Bowness at Canada Life Center on Saturday.
“I’m just trying to be myself, I think,” Tavares said. “Be productive and consistently continue to evolve my game over my career. And obviously, finding some pretty good players, and we’ve got a good team. Continuing to read off of them, using my skill set to continue trying to make them better and then make plays and contribute when those opportunities come.”
Auston Matthews had three assists, and Ilya Samsonov made 31 saves for the Maple Leafs (4-2-0).
Pierre-Luc Dubois scored, and Connor Hellebuyck made 24 saves for the Jets (2-3-0).
Bowness had missed Winnipeg’s first four games after testing positive for COVID-19. Assistant coach Scott Arniel ran the team in his absence.
“We’ve been together, this group has been sticking together the whole [of] training camp and every game,” Bowness said. “We will battle for each other. We did it again tonight and we will do it every game. So I think this group is together, they will continue to fight together and turn this thing around.”
Dubois made it 1-0 at 4:17 of the first period, scoring on his own rebound.
“They played a good game. They’re obviously a good team,” Dubois said. “They jammed that neutral zone pretty well. Instead of trying to get it behind them, we tried to keep making plays, turn it over, and they’re back in our zone getting scoring chances. … Sometimes we didn’t have an answer, and that’s something that hurt us tonight.”
Tavares tied it 1-1 at 9:56, taking a backhand pass from William Nylander and scoring from the high slot.
“[Tavares] looks really good,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “He got two very important goals for us here tonight. But more importantly than that, I think he’s just been really good in each game. You know 5-on-5 he’s been really good. His line, you know whether it’s been [Denis] Malgin there or [Nicholas] Robertson now, that line’s been pretty consistent.”
David Kampf gave the Maple Leafs a 2-1 lead at 14:34 of the second period. Wayne Simmonds set the goal up with a backhand between-the-legs pass through traffic in the slot.
“[Kyle Clifford] made a great play coming through the neutral zone, and I think me and [Mason] Appleton ran into each other,” said Simmonds, who was making his season debut. “I just slipped the puck to the middle. I just grabbed it and saw somebody coming behind, so I just grabbed it and tried to throw it there as quick as possible, and [Kampf] just had a great shot.”
Tavares scored his second on a deflection of Matthews’ point shot to make it 3-1 at 18:56, and Michael Bunting shot into an empty net at 17:23 of the third period for the 4-1 final.
“It wasn’t perfect in the third period, but a combination of our guys playing hard and defending the net well and Samsonov being real strong for us, it’s a great way to start this trip,” Keefe said.
Saturday night lines pic.twitter.com/bK37QFuNLE
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) October 22, 2022
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) October 23, 2022