It’s no secret Dustin Byfuglien likes to have fun playing the game of hockey.
But it was never so evident than Friday night, as the big D-man scored two goals en route to a 3-2 shootout win against the Philadelphia Flyers, with each goal given its own colourful celebration.
The first goal Byfuglien pretended to grab an arrow, from what I can only assume was an imaginary bag full of the deadly sticks settled on his back, and shot it in to the crowd. On the second - which tied things up at 2-2 with just five minutes remaining in the third period - he did a little dance at centre ice.
“I’m not sure what that was, a jig or what is that?” questioned coach Claude Noel with a smile during his post game press conference.
Noel, however, did offer up an explanation as to why his star player felt the need to celebrate with style after each goal: “He’s one of those guys that likes the games, likes to play and he just enjoys that. He plays the game with a lot of joy in his world. That’s how he plays, that’s how he is and that’s how he thinks.”
When asked where that came from, not even the man himself could offer up an explanation.
“I don’t know,” said Byfuglien. “I just do what I do. Nothing special.”
Progress on the PP
Both of Byfuglien’s goals came on the power play, snapping a 0-for-20 drought with the man advantage spanning over eight games.
Heading in to the game the Jets had scored only one goal on 48 power play opportunities in 13 games and were ranked dead last in the league with an 8.4 per cent success rate.
The Jets scored twice on four opportunities against the Flyers, improving to 29th in the league - Florida is now the sole owner of worst PP in the NHL - with an efficiency rate of 10.7 per cent.
“Our power play was big tonight,” opined captain Andrew Ladd. “It was nice to get a couple goals there and hopefully gain some confidence and those start going in for us on a consistent basis.”
Noel made a comment earlier this week that it was just a matter of time before the power play would improve and noted the Jets have the right guys to do it. He defended that comment again Friday.
“I don’t think there was anything really different that took place other than that we hit the net and scored a couple of goals and plays were getting to the net,” he said.
“It was just a matter of time before these things start seeing the back of the net. Eventually they’re going to go. You just have to stay with it and not allow too much frustration to get in to your game.”
Bogo banged up
There wasn’t much frustration in a Jets locker room that just claimed their fourth straight win, but the victory may have come at a hefty cost.
With 3:02 to go in the second period, Zach Bogosian left the ice and was unable to return.
The team is calling it a lower body injury, but more details are expected today.
“We have to make an assessment on him [Saturday] and we’ll get an idea of where he’s at,” said Noel. “I can’t tell you for certain what his status will be for the game on Sunday.”
The news is troubling for a Jets team that already has three of their core players out with injuries. Paul Postma (blood clot in leg), Mark Stuart (hip), and Jacob Trouba (neck strain) are all out and have yet to be given a timeline for their return.
An injury to Bogosian would most likely lead to Zach Redmond getting in to the lineup and more ice time for guys like Keaton Ellerby. Ellerby played a season-high 19:14 of ice time, almost four more minutes than any previous five games with the Jets this season.
The Jets are now set to hit the road for their first of back-to-to back games, starting with the Minnesota Wild Sunday night. Winnipeg dropped their only match against the Wild so far this season by a score of 2-1 back on October 10. They’ll return home Monday to welcome the Calgary Flames. Winnipeg lost to the Flames, 5-3, in their only match since relocating to Winnipeg.
Hard work and perseverance highlighted what was a great all-around effort from the Jets. Even though they trailed 2-1 for a majority of the game, you just knew it was only a matter of time before they evened things up. That’s a big sign of confidence for a Jets team that’s had a pretty bumpy ride this season. Also, Ondrej Pavelec was outstanding, stopping shots at key moments to give his team a chance to win.
First Star: Dustin Byfuglien, WPG
He was the best player on the ice Friday night. Byfuglien scored two goals, bringing back to life the Jets dreadful power play. He also added three shots and a hit in a team high 31:29 of ice time.
Second Star: Blake Wheeler, WPG
Wheeler came in to the game with 18 points in 21 career games against the Flyers. He didn’t hit the score sheet but he made a big impact, helping shut down the Flyers top line. He also added three shots in 20:39 of ice time.
Third Star: Steve Mason, PHI
The Flyers goalie had a stellar night and if it wasn’t for a late goal in the third period, he would have earned his team the win. Mason made 38 saves in the loss and the two goals he did let it, came on the power play.