TORONTO (AP)—For a few frantic moments in the third period, Jonas Gustavsson played without his glove. When the final horn sounded on his second career shutout, he could only watch as an opponent threw the game puck over the glass.
He lost everything, it seems, but his grip on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ goaltending job.
Gustavsson stopped all 24 shots he faced Thursday night to lead the Maple Leafs to a 4-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets.
“I don’t try to think so much about it,” said Gustavsson. “Just when I get the chance I try to make the most of it, have fun and enjoy it. Go out and play and try to get two points. If you do that and you play good, chances are you’re going to play again.”
With the Maple Leafs facing a key stretch in their schedule, coach Ron Wilson says the goaltender that wins will stay in net for the following game. Gustavsson was barely used during a mediocre 4-6-3 December as Wilson elected to ride James Reimer following his return from a head injury.
But the backup now has consecutive victories to open an important homestand and should be back in net Saturday when the Detroit Red Wings come to town.
“Even though you have a starting goalie, if you play really well you’re going to get your chances,” said Gustavsson. “If it’s a competition that’s good.”
Gustavsson’s previous NHL shutout came as a rookie in December 2009, when he stopped 25 shots in a victory over Boston. He had made 65 appearances since then.
“He was solid, very professional tonight,” said Wilson. “He didn’t give up very many rebounds, especially in the situations where the shots were coming from the point. I think he did a really good job of handling some of the pucks when he needed to.”
The Swede faced a few tense moments in the third period, losing his trapper briefly during one sequence and standing tall on a late Jets power play. Gustavsson also saw captain Dion Phaneuf take a puck off the face just outside of his crease with less than 4 minutes to play. Phaneuf was bleeding on the ice briefly before being helped off.
“His mouth’s pretty swollen,” said Wilson. “Right now he didn’t lose any teeth. We’ll just have to wait and see what the X-rays and everything else show.”
Toronto dominated possession of the puck through much of the game, routinely cycling it around the offensive zone for shifts at a time.
Kessel opened the scoring with his team-leading 23rd goal at the end of one such stretch. He got a step on defenseman Zach Bogosian and tipped a Joffrey Lupul pass behind Chris Mason 5 minutes into the first period.
The advantage was stretched to 2-0 at 1:22 of the second period. With an extra forward on the ice and referees prepared to call two delayed Winnipeg penalties, Connolly beat Mason on a rebound for his seventh of the season.
The Jets appeared tired after Wednesday’s 7-3 loss in Montreal, but the tide started to turn with a series of good shifts late in the second period that forced Gustavsson to make several nice stops.
“They skated harder, we didn’t have the puck enough,” said Jets coach Claude Noel. “We didn’t start with the puck enough and we chased them for half the game. … We had too many turnovers in our zone. We created a lot of our own issues.”
He was also fortunate when Alex Burmistrov fired wide on a half-empty cage with the Leafs goalie outside the crease.
The game was still tight heading to the final 20 minutes, but Grabovski quickly gave Toronto some extra breathing room. He ripped a wrist shot past Mason at 3:38 to make it 3-0 before finding MacArthur for a power-play goal roughly 7 minutes later.
“Being on the road, we’ve got to find ways to start locking down,” said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. “We’ve got to be quicker all over the ice.”
Notes: The Jets fell to 5-10-4 on the road. … Bryan Little and Dustin Byfuglien remain on the sidelines for Winnipeg with lower-body injuries. … Toronto scratched Jay Rosehill and Korbinian Holzer. … Winnipeg continues its road trip by visiting Buffalo on Saturday and Boston on Tuesday.