Tobias Enstrom scored the tiebreaking goal late in the second period and the Winnipeg Jets beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 Saturday night.
Bryan Little and Jacob Trouba scored in the first period, and Olli Jokinen had a goal in the third to give the Jets some cushion. Ondrej Pavelec stopped 23 shots for Winnipeg, which was knocked out of playoff contention with a loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
"I thought it was a great effort start to finish,'' Jets captain Andrew Ladd said. "Offensively we were able to sustain pressure throughout the whole game. That's just through hard work, being in the right place. ... We can be proud of the effort we put forth tonight.''
Phil Kessel tied a career high with his 37th goal and Nazem Kadri also scored for Toronto, which remained at 84 points. The Leafs have just three games remaining and trail Columbus by one point for the Eastern Conference's last playoff spot. The Blue Jackets have five games left.
James Reimer finished with 37 saves for the Leafs.
"I don't know if I can really give you an explanation for that, for how it appeared," Reimer said after losing his sixth straight start. "I know in our heads we wanted it, but maybe it didn't show it there."
The loss dropped Toronto into a tie with New Jersey, which beat Carolina for its third win in four games.
Kessel didn't want to concede anything about realizing the playoff dream was essentially gone.
"You never know,'' Kessel said. "We still have three games left and we're going to play hard. You know, whatever happens, happens here.''
Jets coach Paul Maurice said earlier Saturday he was starting Pavelec in goal over rookie Michael Hutchinson because the Leafs and the other teams in the playoff race deserved Winnipeg dressing its "best lineup.'' That lineup did not include star winger Evander Kane, who was made a healthy scratch and Maurice offered no explanation other than to call it a "coach's decision."
Kane has two goals and eight assists in 18 games since the end of the Olympic break. Devin Setoguchi, a healthy scratch for four of the past five games, replaced him.
When asked if he enjoyed playing spoiler against the team that fired him in 2008 after two seasons without a playoff appearance, Maurice offered up a wry smile.
"No,'' Maurice said. "You know what, it's a lousy job. You don't ever want to play spoiler. We've talked a lot about being where you are and that's where we were tonight and we gave our best effort."
A "solid effort'' was something that Leafs center Tyler Bozak noted was lacking at times Saturday night. At times, he thought the Jets were the harder-working team but didn't understand why.
"We should've been [the harder working team] the whole game seeing the situation we were in," Bozak said.
Playing their final home game of the regular season, the Leafs didn't need long to infuse some energy into the crowd of 19,544. Kessel gave Toronto a 1-0 lead just 2:45 in, scoring on a 2-on-1 thanks to a perfect pass from Bozak.
A missed assignment in the defensive zone cost the Leafs the lead. Somehow, Little was left all alone in the left faceoff circle, and Michael Frolik found him for his 23rd of the season at the 6:22 mark.
Reimer robbed Matt Halischuk on a 3-on-2 rush at the midway point of the period to keep it tied, and then Kadri scored an unassisted goal that Pavelec should get some credit for. Following a dump-in on the power play, the Jets' goalie went behind the net to stop the puck in nonchalant fashion.
When Pavelec muffed it, Kadri pounced and put it into an empty net with 6:15 left in the first.
The Jets then tied it in the closing seconds of the period as Trouba got positioning on James van Riemsdyk at the side of the net and banged a shot past Reimer with 3.2 seconds to go.
Two second-period power plays couldn't generate anything positive for the Leafs, who also slogged through a shot drought of 7 minutes, 24 seconds. Meanwhile, the Jets took advantage of a penalty on Paul Ranger.
With Ranger in the box for hooking Adam Pardy, Enstrom faked a shot at the blue line, waited for a screen and fired a shot past Reimer 28 seconds into the power play at 17:02.
Then the Jets added insurance 7:09 into the third when Blake Wheeler found Jokinen wide open in front. The goal was Jokinen's 18th of the season.
NOTES: Joffrey Lupul, who Toronto coach Randy Carlyle considered doubtful to play a day earlier, was in the lineup after missing Thursday's game with a lower-body injury. But he left the game in the third period. ... Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return.