By HOWARD BERGER
WINNIPEG (Feb. 8th) – It took the law of averages; uncommon travel, and bit less determination than we’ve noticed recently for the Maple Leafs to lose their first game in regulation time since Jan. 21.
A 5-0-1 streak spanning 17 nights ended at the MTS Centre here on Tuesday, as a second-period goal by winger Bryan Little held up in a 2-1 victory for the Winnipeg Jets. The game – a plodding affair – was entirely reminiscent of the previous encounter here between the teams, on New Year’s Eve, when the Jets prevailed 3-2. The visitors seemed a trifle weary after flying overnight from Toronto in the wake of Monday’s 6-3 triumph over Edmonton. Had the Thrashers not re-located to Winnipeg rather late in the off-season, Tuesday’s game would have been played at Philips Arena in Atlanta… still a lengthy trip for the Leafs to make the night after a home date, but located in the same time zone as Toronto, and requiring an hour less in the air.
On the bright side for the Maple Leafs was preservation of the club’s remarkable penalty-killing streak, and Phil Kessel’s 30th goal of the season. Toronto is still perfect-for-2012 while skating shorthanded – a 23rd and 24th consecutive kill here marking the 16th straight game in which Leafs have avoided yielding a powerplay marker.
PHIL KESSEL’S WRISTER FROM THE SLOT IN THE OPENING PERIOD SAILED PAST WINNIPEG GOALIE ONDREJ PAVELIC (ABOVE), PROVIDING THE VISITORS A BRIEF 1-0 LEAD, AND LIFTING KESSEL’S SEASON GOAL-TOTAL TO 30.
Kessel cut to the middle in front of the Winnipeg net and caught Ondrej Pavelic going the wrong way to notch his 30th marker. With 27 games remaining in the season, Kessel is well on pace to join Rick Vaive, Gary Leeman and Dave Andreychuk as the only Leafs to reach the 50-goal plateau. Andreychuk last accomplished the feat, in 1993-94.
Please enjoy, now, my photo-review of Tuesday night’s game here in the ‘Peg:
JUST MORE THAN 90 MINUTES BEFORE GAME-TIME, THE MTS CENTRE (ABOVE) LOOKED DESERTED FROM THE OUTSIDE, YET THE TUMULT WAS BUILDING WITHIN ITS WALLS.
THE LOVELY AND TALENTED SARA ORLESKY HOSTED THE WINNIPEG TELECAST ON TSN – LAUGHING AT A WORD FROM HER PRODUCER (ABOVE), AND THEN OPENING THE SHOW LIVE FROM ICE LEVEL (BELOW).
SHORTLY AFTER 7:30 P.M., REFEREE MIKE LEGGO DROPPED THE PUCK TO BEGIN THE MAPLE LEAFS SECOND AND FINAL GAME AT THE MTS CENTRE THIS SEASON.
MIKE BROWN DOESN’T PRODUCE MUCH OFFENSE, BUT HE IS ALWAYS WILLING TO MAKE LIFE MISERABLE FOR OPPOSITION GOALIES, AS PAVELIC DISCOVERED, ONCE AGAIN, EARLY IN TUESDAY’S MATCH (ABOVE).
BROWN AND COLBY ARMSTRONG (9) WERE EMBROILED IN A GOAL-CREASE ENTANGLEMENT (ABOVE AND BELOW) AFTER THEY VENTURED INTO PAVELIC’S TERRITORY.
EX-LEAF TEAMMATES MIKHAIL GRABOVSKI AND NIK ANTROPOV ENGAGE IN A STARE-DOWN (ABOVE) WHILE LINESMAN MARK WHELER AWAITS FACE-OFF CUE.
ANTROPOV TOOK THE GAME’S FIRST PENALTY IN THE OPENING PERIOD (ABOVE), BUT THE LEAFS HAD ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ON THE POWERPLAY AND DID NOT REGISTER A SHOT.
AFTER BACKING UP JAMES REIMER IN THREE CONSECUTIVE GAMES (ALL VICTORIES), JONAS GUSTAVSSON PLAYED GOAL FOR THE LEAFS HERE IN WINNIPEG – PEERING AROUND TEAMMATE LUKE SCHENN AND JETS FORWARD BLAKE WHEELER (ABOVE).
MATT LOMBARDI (15) LOOKS ON AS COLBY ARMSTRONG (HOLDING HELMET ON BENCH) APPEARS TO BE HAVING A CONTENTIOUS MOMENT WITH CAPTAIN DION PHANEUF DURING A TELEVSION TIME-OUT. TYLER BOZAK (42) IS MINDING HIS OWN BUSINESS.
GUSTAVSSON AND BOZAK REACT DEJECTEDLY (ABOVE) WHILE THE JETS CELEBRATE BRIAN LITTLE’S GOAL, MIDWAY THROUGH THE SECOND PERIOD, THAT HELD UP AS THE WINNER.
WIDER ANGLES (ABOVE AND BELOW) FROM OPPOSITE END OF THE MTS CENTRE PRESS BOX IN THE SECOND PERIOD.
BANNERS HANGING IN THE ARENA (ABOVE) REMEMBER THE MANITOBA MOOSE OF THE AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE – A TEAM THAT NICELY FILLED THE VOID BETWEEN 1996 AND 2011, WHEN WINNIPEG WAS NOT IN THE NHL.
TYLER BOZAK (42) BATTLES FOR PUCK POSSESSION (ABOVE) WITH DUSTIN BYFUGLIEN AND BRIAN LITTLE (18) OF WINNIPEG, WHILE KESSEL AND WHEELER WATCH FROM CLOSE BY.
DAVID STECKEL OF THE LEAFS (20) TESTS THE SQUIRT-BOTTLE (ABOVE) BEFORE RE-HYDRATING AT THE BENCH DURING A SECOND-PERIOD TIME OUT.
GUSTAVSSON TAKES ONE IN THE CHEST (ABOVE) AS WHEELER APPEARS READY TO CHOP THE LEAFS GOALIE WITH HIS STICK.
LEAFS HEAD COACH RON WILSON (RIGHT) AND ASSISTANT ROB ZETTLER CROSS THE ICE TO THE VISITORS’ DRESSING ROOM AT THE END OF THE SECOND PERIOD.
FRESHLY RE-SURFACED ICE (ABOVE) REFLECTS TELEVISION LIGHTING AS MIKHAIL GRABOVSKI LEADS A TORONTO RUSH EARLY IN THE THIRD PERIOD.
DION PHANEUF HAS PLAYED TERRIFIC HOCKEY FOR THE LEAFS DURING THEIR 2012 RENAISSANCE. IN PHOTO ABOVE, HE AND GUSTAVSSON WATCH PLAY UNFOLD IN THE CORNER TO THE RIGHT OF THE TORONTO GOAL.
IT’S A SAFE BET THAT JOFFREY LUPUL (ON ONE KNEE, ABOVE) WASN’T LAUGHING IN FRONT OF THE WINNIPEG NET IN THE THIRD PERIOD. MORE THAN LIKELY, HE WAS REACTING TO A JOLT FROM DEFENSEMAN RON HAINSEY (6).
LINESMEN MARK WHELER (56) AND MIKE CVIK MOVE IN TO SEPARATE JOHNNY ODUYA AND LEAFS FORWARD JOEY CRABB AFTER A BRIEF ALTERCATION IN THE FINAL FRAME.
RON WILSON PULLED GUSTAVSSON FOR A SIXTH ATTACKER ROUGHLY 20 SECONDS AFTER I TOOK THE ABOVE PHOTO, BUT THE LEAFS NEVER CAME CLOSE TO TYING THE MATCH IN THE LAST MINUTE OF PLAY.
JETS CHAIRMAN AND CEO MARK CHIPMAN WAS ALL SMILES (ABOVE) AS HE LEFT THE PRESS BOX AFTER HIS TEAM’S VICTORY OVER THE MAPLE LEAFS.
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