Dustin Byfuglien change works for Jets, but it’s not enough in Game 2
WINNIPEG -- Paul Maurice made one big change before Game 2.
The Winnipeg Jets coach moved Dustin Byfuglien back onto the first power-play unit for the first time since the Roseau product returned from injury at the end of March.
That move worked. The Jets went two-for-three on the power play Friday night and Byfuglien factored in on both goals.
But Maurice is going to have to find a few others to try to get Winnipeg going.
The Jets are facing a huge hole after losing 4-3 to the St. Louis Blues on Friday night in Bell MTS Place. Winnipeg trails the best-of-seven series 2-0 and will have to head on the road to St. Louis for the next two games. The Jets need to win one to bring the series back to Winnipeg next week.
“We’ll move some things around,” Maurice said. “Our five-on-five game has got to get tightened up.”
Maurice started shifting line combinations in the third period after Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck allowed a long-range shot from Blues forward Ryan O’Reilly to break a 3-3 tie just 3:46 into the final frame.
But those changes didn’t spark a tying goal.
The one change that worked was putting Byfuglien on the top power-play unit again with Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine. Byfuglien assisted on goals by Laine and Scheifele, both of which briefly turned the momentum in favor of the Jets.
Byfuglien, who missed half of the regular season with injuries, has been in on three of Winnipeg’s four goals in the playoffs.
“We only got one (power play) the first game, so it was nice to get a few more opportunities,” Wheeler said. “Obviously, that’s a real source of confidence with our team, so it was good to see a few go in tonight.”
But Winnipeg will need more going forward.
“This time of year, you’ve got to get results,” Wheeler said. “Go to St. Louis and take care of business.”
Trade deadline pickup absent
One conundrum facing Maurice is what to do with trade-deadline acquisition Kevin Hayes.
The Jets gave up a first-round pick to get Hayes, but the former New York Ranger hasn’t been a factor at all in the first two games of the series.
On Friday, Hayes played just 8:32 -- the second-lowest ice time for any player on either team. After the Jets got behind early in the third, Hayes only played one more shift the rest of the game.
He was rarely used on special teams, either. Hayes played just 15 seconds on the penalty kill and eight seconds on the power play.
“We got into the penalty kills and I used (Brandon) Tanev in that hole,” Maurice said of the low ice time for Hayes. “I was pretty happy with our PK on that. We lost Nik Ehlers for a big chunk of time in the second period off that hit and the concussion protocol, and then we were chasing the game. I still wanted to keep the match fairly close. I liked the way (Adam) Lowry was going, so it was the flow of the game.”
Last season, Winnipeg traded away a first-round pick to get Paul Stastny for the playoff run. That move paid off as Stastny tallied 15 points in 17 games. Stastny scored several big goals for the Jets, who reached the Western Conference Final.
This season, neither Hayes nor his line have been factors. Hayes hasn’t even registered a shot on goal yet.
It’s possible that Hayes is playing injured. NHL coaches are notorious for keeping injuries under wraps in the playoffs.
One example of that is with Winnipeg forward Mathieu Perreault, who sat out of Friday’s game with an undisclosed injury that happened at morning skate. Maurice declined to give an update on Perreault after the game.
Maurice did indicate there could be some lineup changes before Sunday’s Game 3 in St. Louis.
“We’re looking to be tighter in some areas and get a little bit more in some areas, for sure,” Maurice said. “But you’re not going there feeling that you’re that far off. We’re a good road team. They’re a good road team. Both teams are strong on the road. You’re going to see very similar games certainly in the next two, so finding that little bit of edge, that’s the key.”