Hayes starts outburst for Jets, scores first of playoffs

Hayes starts outburst for Jets, scores first of playoffs

ST. LOUIS – Kevin Hayes knew what he needed to do make an impact, even after a demotion.

The Winnipeg Jets prized trade-deadline acquisition started Sunday’s game on the fourth line with Mathieu Perreault and Jack Roslovic, but that didn’t prevent him from opening the scoring in what turned out to be a 6-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Sunday at Enterprise Center.

Hayes, a pending unrestricted free agent who was limited to 8:32 of ice time in Game 2, had plenty of jump during the first period and set up Mathieu Perreault for a glorious scoring chance that was thwarted by the stick of Blues goalie Jordan Binnington.

“I just had the puck a lot more. I challenged myself to have the puck tonight,” said Hayes, who was acquired from the New York Rangers for a 2019 first-round pick and forward Brendan Lemieux. “The first two games were very average. I didn’t have the puck that much when I was on the ice. Tonight, I did.”

After chipping in five goals and 13 points in 20 games during the regular season, Hayes got off to a slow start in the playoffs, as he held off the scoresheet in the first two games of the series with the St. Louis Blues, without even registering a shot on goal.

But in Game 3, he finished with the goal, three shots on goal and a hit in what was easily his best outing of these playoffs.

“He came out with the right mentality. He was a presence, right from the beginning,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler. “The play he made to Perreault, that’s a goal 100 out of 100 times, but the kid made an unbelievable saves. There’s a lot for him to build off him and it’s just huge for him to get a reward and to get him feeling good.”

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