“I thought we were chasing the game, keeping in mind that we hadn’t played a game in four days,” Wheeler said. “It’s tough to do, just to come out and pick right up where you left off. So it took us a period to get into it. I thought the back half of the game we played a pretty good game, unfortunately it was just too far out of reach for us.”
The teams will complete the two-game series Saturday night in Winnipeg.
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.
Simmonds wired a backhander in 51 seconds later, but Scheifele halved the deficit at 3:19 when he snapped in a loose puck past 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.
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.
“I’m just thrilled for the guys to get a win,” Foligno said. “Especially coming into the lineup and being able to celebrate with them, that was a big one for us.”
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.
Foligno earned his first assist with his new club by feeding Marner for the empty-netter at 19:54.