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Wild have no answers for Roseau's Dustin Byfuglien and the Jets

WINNIPEG—The Winnipeg Whiteout crowd roared past 110 decibels when a close-up of Dustin Byfuglien popped on the screen at center ice.

The Roseau, Minn., product had just crunched Wild forward Mikael Granlund along the bench and destroyed Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu behind the net with a shoulder-to-shoulder check in a span of nine seconds.

Byfuglien glanced up at the scoreboard to see what the fans were roaring about, then immediately looked away.

No smile. No reaction.

"Just another day at the office," he deadpanned.

The Winnipeg Jets surged to a 2-0 Stanley Cup Playoff series lead over the Minnesota Wild with a dominant 4-1 win on Friday night in front of a wild crowd at Bell MTS Place.

Through two games in the series, the Wild have had little answer for the Jets, especially Byfuglien.

On Friday, Byfuglien played a team-high 23 minutes, 51 seconds. He delivered eight hits, including the back-to-back hits in the second period that got Winnipeg's vaunted crowd into the game. He blocked a team-high three shots. He set up a Paul Stastny goal with a backhand saucer pass from behind the net.

Byfuglien is starting to look a lot like he did during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he led the Chicago Blackhawks with 11 goals and seemed to repeatedly come up big in key moments.

In each game against the Wild, he's delivered monster hits that took Minnesota players off their skates. He did it to Joel Eriksson Ek in Game 1. And a day after Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said that the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Byfuglien actually lets up before he hits people, the Roseau product did it again to Koivu.

"He's a big guy and he's going to hit people," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said.

But that's not all he does.

Byfuglien has also been a presence on the offensive end in both games. He had a team-high five shots on goal in Game 1 and added three more in Game 2. He picked up an assist both nights filtering a perfect pass from behind the net to Stastny for the eventual game-winner.

Byfuglien was named the games No. 1 star.

"He's played like that for a big chunk of the season," Maurice said. "His game was underappreciated this year. He's played very, very well for us. But he didn't score and that seemed to draw a lot of the concern. But his game was good."

Byfuglien, now 33 years old, knows these playoff opportunities aren't to be taken for granted.

After winning the 2010 Stanley Cup and bringing it back to Roseau, Byfuglien was traded. Wednesday was the first time Byfuglien won a playoff game since the Cup-clincher in 2010.

"That was one of the things I had to say: It doesn't come along very often, so enjoy it," Byfuglien said. "While you're here, you might as well give it all you've got. You never know what can happen."

On Friday, Byfuglien's back-to-back hits on Granlund and Koivu five minutes into the second period got the crowd into it and the Jets soon broke the 0-0 tie on a Tyler Myers goal.

Shots on goal in the final two periods were 31-8 Jets.

"In a tie game like that, when the crowd is maybe sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for something to happen, that wakes everyone up," Stastny said.

Through two games in the series, shots on goal in the third period alone are 36-7 Winnipeg.

The series now shifts to St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center for Game 3 on Sunday, which is a good thing for the Wild. The Jets have won 11 games in a row at home, a streak that dates back to February.

"We have a game plan," Byfuglien said. "Being physical is one of our strong suits. We just want to play fast, be on the body. If the hits are there, take it. Don't go chasing them. We played a good team game and we stuck through all 60."

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 13th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016 and 2018, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He also was the NCHC's inaugural Media Excellence Award winner in 2018. Schlossman has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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