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Marner contributes 3 points as Maple Leafs ground Jets in Foligno’s debut

Mitch Marner had two goals — including an empty-netter — on a three-point night as the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Winnipeg Jets 5-3 on Thursday at Bell MTS Place.

Auston Matthews, Wayne Simmonds and Jason Spezza had the other goals for the North Division-leading Maple Leafs (29-13-5), who moved six points ahead of Winnipeg (27-16-3) in the standings.

Mark Scheifele, Andrew Copp and Kyle Connor scored for the Jets, who are one point ahead of the idle Edmonton Oilers. Both Winnipeg and Edmonton have a game in hand on Toronto.

Toronto, which had two overtime losses over its recent five-game skid, has earned points in 13 of its last 16 games.

The game had a wide-open shinny feel in the early going with goals on three of the first four shots.

Marner found Matthews with a long cross-ice pass and his wrist shot from the face-off circle beat Connor Hellebuyck just 27 seconds into the game. It was Matthews’ NHL-leading 34th goal of the season.

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Simmonds wired a backhand in 51 seconds later but Scheifele halved the deficit at 3:19 when he snapped in a loose puck past Toronto goalie Jack Campbell.

The Jets later took advantage of a poor play by T.J. Brodie, who was wide with a pass back to Morgan Rielly in the defensive zone. Mason Appleton used the turnover to slide the puck in front to Copp, who tapped it in at 10:26.

Toronto used a delayed penalty to work the puck around for about 30 seconds before Joe Thornton’s shot deflected off Spezza and past a screened Hellebuyck at 11:59. The Winnipeg netminder was pulled and replaced by Laurent Brossoit.

Foligno makes Maple Leafs debut

Nick Foligno made his Maple Leafs debut on the top line with Marner and Matthews.

Foligno, who had to quarantine after being acquired from Columbus in a three-way deal this month, helped build the play that led to Toronto’s fourth goal. Matthews eventually sent a rolling puck to Marner, who fluttered a one-timer over Brossoit’s shoulder at 12:58.

Jets captain Blake Wheeler made his return after missing six games due to a concussion. He won a battle down low late in the second period and fed it in front to Connor, who beat Campbell at 17:56.

Winnipeg nearly tied the game midway through the third period when Derek Forbort sent a lob pass over Justin Holl’s shoulder to Pierre-Luc Dubois, but Campbell denied him at the goalmouth.

Brossoit was pulled with about two minutes to go in regulation. Connor had two quality one-timers from the wing but couldn’t find a hole.

Foligno earned his first assist with his new club by feeding Marner for the empty-netter at 19:54.

Winnipeg forward Adam Lowry suffered an upper-body injury after taking a hit from Alex Galchenyuk and did not return.

Winnipeg outshot Toronto 37-33. The Jets and Maple Leafs will face off again Saturday at Winnipeg.

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