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Jan 23, 2024 6:18 pm

After rare defensive letdown, Jets finish road trip at Maple Leafs

The Winnipeg Jets intend to return to their stingy defensive ways Wednesday night when they complete a three-game road trip Wednesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Jets sprung a leak Monday night in a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins. It was the first time in 15 games that the Jets allowed more than two goals in a game.

They had not allowed more than three goals in their previous 34 — one short of the modern-day record set by the Minnesota Wild in 2015.

Boston’s fourth goal against Winnipeg was scored into an empty net in the final minute of the third period.

“Empty-netter, so is there an asterisk on that? We’ll see, we’ll talk about it,” Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo said. “It was a great streak. Time to get it going again. We’ve got a lot to learn going forward from a game like this. So get some rest and (prepare for) another big game in Toronto.”

“That’s probably the worst game that we’ve had in a long time,” Jets coach Rick Bowness said. “And with our breakouts, we were slow moving it and the passes were soft, so that allows Boston to play their game. … I put this more on us than I would Boston but give them credit. They played hard.”

The Jets lead the league with 39 games of three or fewer goals allowed. They’re 29-8-2 record in those games.

Connor Hellebuyck made 17 saves for the Jets.

“We can play against any team. We showed that,” Winnipeg forward Kyle Connor said. “I don’t know if for some reason, guys weren’t gapping up the way we needed to. It felt like we sat back a little too much. We’ve got to play on our toes and be a little more aggressive.”

The Jets will be challenged by the Maple Leafs and Auston Matthews, who scored his league-leading 38th goal Sunday in a 3-1 victory over the Seattle Kraken. The win salvaged a split for Toronto in a four-game trip.

The Maple Leafs are 2-4-1 in their past seven games. They found some encouragement Sunday with the play of goaltender Ilya Samsonov, who was playing so poorly that he had been demoted to the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League this month with Martin Jones taking over the No. 1 role in net.

Samsonov made 16 saves in Seattle to record his first win since Dec. 9, a 4-0 shutout against the Nashville Predators.

He said that 10 days working with Marlies goaltender coach Hannu Toivonen helped him reset.

“A couple steps back for moving forward,” Samsonov said. “It was really important for me. I was in a really bad spot, especially mentally. But I’m good right now.”

“He’s been stacking good days,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “He’s been hungry for the net on this entire trip.”

Samsonov made some key saves on Jaden Schwartz and Justin Schultz even if he did not face many shots.

“He didn’t get a lot of work here (Sunday), but that sometimes is even harder, because you get long gaps between shots,” Keefe said. “You’ve got to really stay focused, and he was great.”

–Field Level Media

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