OTTAWA — It’s been a big week for Dustin Byfuglien.
The Winnipeg Jets defenceman was again the most powerful force on the ice Thursday night, scoring for a second straight night to help the Jets rally from a 2-0 deficit and earn a point out of their 3-2 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators.
“We got behind the eight ball but we stuck to our game plan pretty well,” the big man said after the team’s fourth back-to-back road sequence of the season. “I didn’t feel like we were ever really out of it.
“We got a point out of it on a back-to-back. It’s a tough road trip. And we’ve got a hard schedule, and I think we’ve done pretty well as a team and played pretty good hockey.”
Byfuglien’s fourth goal of the season, 26 seconds into the third period during a four-on-four, was a display of his unique skills. He stepped up in the neutral zone and cut off a play, then took the puck the other way.
He had Nikolaj Ehlers as his decoy for a two-on-one and decided to lean into a 30-foot shot that was just a breeze going by Sens goalie Craig Anderson.
“That’s a typical Dustin Byfuglien play there,” said Jets centre Bryan Little. “He overpowers someone, somehow comes out of a tight situation with the puck on his stick and when he tees it up like that, it’s a pretty heavy shot. We’ve seen that goal a couple of times from him.”
Little just nodded when asked about Byfuglien’s impact in recent games.
“He’s been real good for us,” Little said. “Like I said, when he’s on his game and playing the way he wants to out there, he can do a lot of things. There’s not a lot of people that can get in his way and stop him. He’s just a huge combination of size and skill.
“You’ve seen him this year, where he’s had a couple of goals where he really showed off his hands. You don’t often see that from a big guy like that.”
Jets coach Paul Maurice tried to play the politically correct game when asked about Byfuglien.
“I’m trying to be respectful... Anderson played a really good game, and when you win a game at home in a shootout like that, and we put up 40 shots, your goalie should get first star.
“Past that, he’s the best player on the ice tonight, the most dominant force. And he’s been like that for a while. Right after the Ranger game, that Calgary game back at home when we got back from that first trip, he’s been as good as I’ve ever seen him play.”
And not just this week.
“I think he’s been good for a while,” Maurice said. “It’s harder to see one player dominating a game when we had a run of Tampa, St. Louis, L.A., Chicago, so it’s hard for a guy to elevate the way he has, nothing to do with Ottawa.
“When you play big, strong, physical teams, you notice Buff, and he’s at both ends of the rink now. He’s just moving faster, moving quicker. And we now have more options for him to play with on the back end, not just Toby (Enstrom).”
The Jets trailed on the shot clock 21-19 after two periods but really turned it up on the Sens after that, ending the overtime ahead 40-31 in shots.
The tally was 7-2 in the scoreless three-on-three, but having not converted a second time in that scenario, Byfuglien remains unconvinced it’s a good thing.
“No. It’s terrible,” he said. “It’s not hockey. It’s for the fans, not the hockey players.”
- Tim Campbell