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Gustavsson stops 24 shots as Maple Leafs pound Winnipeg 4-0

Jonas Gustavsson can count on getting another start for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The man known as The Monster stopped all 24 shots he faced Thursday for his second career NHL shutout as the Maple Leafs beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-0.

With the Leafs facing a key stretch of 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 Saturday when the Detroit Red Wings come to town.

Phil Kessel, Tim Connolly, Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur scored for the Maple Leafs (20-15-5), who moved into seventh in the Eastern Conference.

The Jets saw their record fall to 19-16-5 and dropped below Toronto in the standings.

Gustavsson’s only 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.

The Swede faced a few tense moments in the third period before closing this one out, 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 four minutes to play.

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 a stretch like that. The Leafs sniper got a step on defenceman Zach Bogosian and tipped a Joffrey Lupul pass behind Chris Mason five 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 Leafs seemed to have all of the momentum at that point, especially with the Jets looking tired on the heels of Wednesday’s 7-3 loss in Montreal. But the tide started to turn with a series of good shifts late in the second period as Gustavsson was called on to make a couple nice stops.

He was also a bit fortunate when Alex Burmistrov fired wide on a half-empty cage with the Leafs goalie down and out.

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 seven minutes later.

Notes: The Jets fell to 5-10-4 away from MTS Centre. … 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. … Announced attendance was 19,513.