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Bad blood and bad calls

Leafs escape Winnipeg with 2 points and the zebras’ blessing

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There’s always a buzz in the air — not to mention a surprising amount of bad blood — when the Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs get together.

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There’s always a buzz in the air — not to mention a surprising amount of bad blood — when the Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs get together.

And that was certainly the case on Saturday night at a sold-out Canada Life Centre, where the visitors skated away with a 4-1 victory that was draped in controversy.

The Jets were seething over a handful of calls, and non-calls, which didn’t go their way and had a direct impact on both the winning and insurance goals in a wild, action-packed second period.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets head coach Rick Bowness yells at his team during third period NHL action against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“What we see and what they see, a lot of times, is two different things,” said Winnipeg head coach Rick Bowness, who finally made his 2.0 debut behind the bench after a battle with COVID sidelined him for the first four games. “What we saw tonight, they didn’t see. It’s as simple as that.”

Toronto captain John Tavares led the way with a pair of tallies, while David Kampf and Michael Bunting (empty-net) had the others. Pierre-Luc Dubois was the only one to beat goaltender Ilya Samsonov, who stopped 31 of 32 pucks he saw. He had a bit of help from his posts, with Dubois ringing iron twice.

Connor Hellebuyck was beaten three times on 24 shots.

Winnipeg, coming off a 1-2-0 road trip that included stops in Dallas (Monday, a 4-1 loss), Colorado (Wednesday, a 4-3 overtime win) and Las Vegas (Thursday, a 5-2 loss) falls to 2-3-0. Toronto improves to 4-2-0 with a second consecutive victory.

With the dust now settled, let’s break down what transpired in the form of analysis and quotes, news and notes:

1) After Dubois (4:17) and Tavares (9:56) traded goals in a fairly tepid first period, business really picked up in the middle frame. And referees Graham Skilliter and Corey Syvret completely lost the plot.

First up was an obvious pick play by Wayne Simmonds — called up from the minors before the game along with Kyle Clifford to add some extra physicality — “accidentally on purpose” wiped out Winnipeg forward Mason Appleton, creating plenty of time and space for Kampf to put the Buds ahead 2-1 at 14:34.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets’ Pierre-Luc Dubois yells at Toronto Maple Leafs’ Rasmus Sandin (not shown) after a battle during the second period.

Appleton was justifiably irate at the missed infraction.

“It was a collision. And it led to the goal against. Actually we were in good shape coming in. All of a sudden we lose Mason and the scramble was on,” said Bowness. “But again, what we see and what they see are two totally different things on that play.”

But wait, there was more…

2) Barely 90 seconds later, Josh Morrissey laid what looked to be a perfectly-timed hit on Toronto’s Nick Robertson which sent the young forward flying. Morrissey was not only whistled for interference, he was then jumped by Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly who somehow avoided getting an instigator penalty in the ensuing fight. Rielly was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, which was a cowardly way for the officials to spare him an automatic 10-minute misconduct.

“I tried to pinch down and they always say either get the puck or the man. I tried to play the body,” Morrissey said of the hit. “I haven’t seen all the angles whether… the game happens fast and if it didn’t touch his stick, that’s interference and they got the right call. If it did, and I thought kept my arms down and stay as compact as possible and not try and drive up at his face.”

It says here Robertson did touch the puck, thus was eligible to get hit.

But wait, there was even more…

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets’ Josh Morrissey and Toronto Maple Leafs’ Morgan Rielly fight during the second period.

3) With just under two minutes left in the frame, Toronto defenceman Rasmus Sandin crushed Jets forward Cole Perfetti directly from behind into the boards. Incredibly, there was no penalty called.

“It looked to me like a hit from behind, absolutely,” said Bowness.

Dubois jumped to his teammate’s defence and was given a roughing minor. It took the Maple Leafs just 42 seconds to convert on the power play, as Tavares got his second of the night. And guess who drew one of the assists? Sandin, who should have been in the box at the time.

“I mean, I don’t go at their guy if he doesn’t hit Fetts (Perfetti) from behind,” a visibly upset Dubois said following the game, struggling to bite his tongue. “The second goal, Appy…(Appleton). Yeah. I don’t want to get fined.”

4) To be fair, and avoid the risk of being labelled homers, there were other questionable calls in this one that went Winnipeg’s way. Dylan DeMelo looked like he escaped a boarding call in the first period for drilling Mitch Marner. And Simmonds was whistled in the third for a ticky-tack unsportsmanlike conduct minor.

“I think at this point in my career, you learn that all that kind of stuff is out of your control. There’s nights where you think you got every call and nights that you didn’t get any,” said Morrissey.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Toronto Maple Leafs’ David Kampf celebrates his goal against Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck during the second period.

“Every team comes out of the game thinking they didn’t get the calls that they wanted. That’s just how the league works. There were some that felt probably could have been called, but that’s the game. You can’t dwell on that or let it get you down. You go to keep playing and try to battle through that kind of adversity. Like I said, that’s the NHL, that’s every night and everyone feels like that.”

5) Winnipeg’s power play did them no favours, going 0-for-3 on the night. Not having dynamic winger Nikolaj Ehlers (lower-body injury) for a third straight game definitely hurts. Meanwhile, Toronto went 2-for-3.

“The difference in the game was clearly specialty teams. We hit a couple of goal posts. And theirs went in,” said Bowness. “We had some good looks and just didn’t capitalize on them. It comes down to when they score two power play goals and we didn’t score any. We had some really good looks but they just didn’t go in.”

The Jets were also without defenceman Dylan Samberg for a second consecutive contests as he deals with an injury. Dominic Toninato and Kyle Capobianco were the two healthy scratches.

6) Last but certainly not least, how about the atmosphere inside the downtown rink? With an announced crowd of 15,325, this was the first official packed house since way back in early March 2020, before a little thing called COVID-19 threw the world into disarray.

No doubt having Toronto in town for their annual visit helped the cause. In some ways, this felt like a road game for the Jets, with loud chants of “Go Leafs Go” starting even before puck drop. Which, naturally, led to Winnipeg fans rallying with their own response.

“Fans were fantastic. It was going back and forth, it was intense. It was a hell of a hockey game,” said Bowness. “We came out on the short end of it. But certainly the fans created a good atmosphere. It was fun to be a part of.”

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Toronto Maple Leafs’ John Tavares and Mitchell Marner celebrate Tavares goal against Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck during the first period.

UP NEXT: After playing four games in the last six days, Winnipeg will take Sunday off, then finish out this quick homestand by hosting the St. Louis Blues on Monday night. It will be another tough test, considering Craig Berube’s crew is off to a perfect 3-0-0 start.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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