Maple Leafs down Jets 3-1 to extend lead in North Division to three points

Toronto Maple Leafs players celebrate Zach Hyman's (11) goal against Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) during first period NHL action in Winnipeg on Wednesday, March 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Auston Matthews scored his league-leading 24th goal and goaltender Jack Campbell improved his season record to 7-0-0 as the Toronto Maple Leafs downed the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 Wednesday to extend their lead atop the North Division to three points.

Adding to the Jets woes on the night, captain Blake Wheeler did not see action after the first period. There was no immediate word on what the issue was.

Toronto (23-10-3) came into the game with a one-point lead over Winnipeg (22-13-2) in the all-Canadian division.

The teams meet again Friday at Bell MTS Place as Toronto continues its four-game road trip.

Zach Hyman and Alex Kerfoot also scored for Toronto. Mitch Marner, with two assists, registered his13th multi-point game of the season.

Josh Morrissey had the lone Jets goal.

The Leafs went 0-for-5 on the power play, extending a drought that dates back to March 9. But they did score shorthanded.

Winnipeg, back home after a seven-game road trip, had won four of its previous five, including a 5-1 win Monday in Calgary. But it trailed 2-0 after a sluggish first period that saw Toronto dominate despite going 0-for-3 on the power play.

The Leafs were coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to visiting Edmonton on Monday. Toronto had won its previous three outings, including two in overtime, rebounding from a poor stretch that saw it lose six of seven.

With No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen back in Toronto awaiting further injury evaluation of a lower-body injury, Campbell started for the fourth time in the last five games. Campbell, who missed the Edmonton game Monday with a lower-body injury, made 26 saves for the win.

It was career game No. 299 as a Jet for goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who stopped 23 shots. Only Ondrej Pavelec (379) has played 300-plus games for the franchise.

Matthews opened the scoring at 4:40 to punctuate a sharp Leafs opening. Hyman drove to the net and Winnipeg's Pierre Luc-Dubois and Derek Forbort ran into each other, leaving Matthews to score from close range.

Forbort, in pain after the collision, briefly went to the Jets dressing room.

Matthews has scored the opening goal of the game six times this season. Marner, with an assist on Matthews' goal, ran his points streak against the Jets to five games this season, the first Leaf to record a five-game point streak against Winnipeg.

Hyman made it 2-0 at 10:47, poking the puck in from in-close after Matthews hit the post following a gorgeous move by Marner -- that left six-foot-seven rookie defenceman Logan Stanley sliding into oblivion -- as the Leafs top line swarmed the Winnipeg net. The Jets unsuccessfully challenged for goalie interference on Hyman.

Toronto held a 13-2 edge in shots before Winnipeg closed the margin to 14-6 at the end of the first. Hyman had six shots alone in the period.

The Jets had more life in the second, outshooting Toronto 16-7 in the period. But despite three straight Toronto penalties, they had to settle for exchanging goals with the Leafs.

Paul Stastny appeared to lose a tooth after taking a T.J. Brodie stick to the mouth late in the period as the Winnipeg pain mounted. Kerfoot scored shorthanded on the ensuing double-minor penalty, outpacing Morrissey after the puck got out of the Toronto zone.

Morrissey redeemed himself by scoring on the same power play, his shot beating Campbell through traffic at 17:15, with six seconds remaining in the first of Brodie's two minors.

Toronto played a controlled third period to preserve the win.

NOTES: The Leafs were the last team in the North Division to visit Winnipeg this season. The teams split the first four meetings in Toronto … After playing 12-of-14 games on the road, the Jets play 10 of the next 15 at home starting Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2021