Phil Kessel is carrying the Toronto Maple Leafs on his back.
The red-hot forward had a goal and two assists Wednesday as the Maple Leafs erased a two-goal deficit in the third period and beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-3 in a shootout.
Kessel extended his NHL lead in both goals and points on a night where Toronto appeared headed for its first regulation loss of the season until a late rally. He has seven goals and 12 points through five games.
About the only thing Kessel couldn’t do was score in the shootout, but teammates Joffrey Lupul and Matt Frattin made sure it didn’t matter by each beating Ondrej Pavelec during the tiebreaker.
Lupul added two goals in regulation for Toronto (4-0-1), which starts its first road trip of the season in Boston on Thursday night.
Mark Scheifele, with his first NHL goal, Tobias Enstrom and Alexander Burmistrov replied for Winnipeg (1-3-1).
The home team put on an ugly performance through 40 minutes, registering just 12 shots while getting serenaded with boos during disorganized stretches with the man advantage.
That changed quickly with power-play goals just 27 seconds apart early in the third period. Lupul’s shot deflected off Enstrom’s stick and past Pavelec at 7:28 before Kessel one-timed a Dion Phaneuf pass home to tie the game 3-3 at 7:55.
He leapt into the arms of teammates as the Air Canada Centre came alive.
Toronto has received almost all of its offence from the first line of Kessel, Lupul and Tyler Bozak while earning nine of a possible 10 points to start the season.
It began as a promising night for Winnipeg in its first visit to a Canadian city. A number of fans turned up wearing Jets sweaters and the Leafs rolled out the welcome mat with a scoreboard tribute during a stoppage in play early in the first period. In-game announcer Andy Frost, who was born and raised in Winnipeg, voiced the minute-long video and fans responded with a standing ovation.
Shortly after, Enstrom made it 1-0 with Winnipeg’s first power-play goal of the season. He fired a shot through all kinds of traffic that eluded James Reimer at 9:49.
Lupul tied it up less than two minutes later with a one-timer that shattered the lens of the in-goal camera. Kessel made a nice play to beat two defenders before finding Lupul — a telling sign of things to come.
Winnipeg pulled ahead 3-1 in the middle period. Burmistrov completed a give-and-go with former Leaf Nik Antropov at 2:27 before Scheifele scored on the power play just over five minutes later.
The rookie centre was parked at the side of the goal for about 10 seconds before knocking a rebound past Reimer. Scheifele is from nearby Kitchener, Ont., and pumped his fists as friends and family in the arena cheered loudly from the stands.
Toronto was booed off the ice after 40 minutes. Kessel made sure the fans were cheering again before the end of the night.