By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – Dustin Byfuglien’s return to the ice was very noticeable Thursday.
The Winnipeg Jets defenceman had a goal and two assists in a 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks after missing the previous two games with an upper-body injury.
“I thought we put together a decent game,” said Byfuglien, who had his first goal of the season. “It’s nice to be back and we got our two points.”
Patrik Laine and Bryan Little each scored power-play goals and Andrew Copp also recorded his first of the season.
Connor Hellebuyck made 26 saves for the Jets (4-2-1), who were playing the third game in a season-long six-game homestand (2-0-1).
Bo Horvat scored for the Canucks (4-3-0), who had their win streak end at three games.
Anders Nilsson stopped 28 shots in net to finish off Vancouver’s six-game road trip (3-3).
“We’ve got to take positives out of this (road trip),” Horvat said. “Obviously to go 3-3 — it would have been nice to go 4-2 — but I thought we played some good hockey on this road trip.
“I think we opened up a lot of eyes in our room and kind of created a culture for ourselves and have an identity to our team a little bit, where we’re going to be competing every single night and playing fast. So it’s all about consistency now throughout the lineup.”
Little broke a 1-1 tie when he scored at 4:58 of the third period with a backhand shot that beat goalie Anders Nilsson. He also picked up one assist.
Laine beat Nilsson with a one-timer late in the first period. Copp made it 3-1 with 7:14 left in the third and Byfuglien scored ]at 14:43.
Winnipeg was coming off a 5-4 overtime loss to Edmonton on Tuesday in which they gave up a three-goal lead entering the third period.
“After that last game we were pretty hungry in the third period,” Little said. “It was our best period. Once we got that go-ahead goal it seemed like we turned it up even more. That’s what you need. That’s what we were looking to do.”
Laine scored with 64 seconds remaining when Blake Wheeler sent a pass across the front of the net for the Finnish shooter’s one-timer that beat Nilsson on the stick side.
It was Wheeler’s 500th point with the Jets franchise, second behind Ilya Kovalchuk during his time with the Atlanta Thrashers.
After being outshot 7-1 by the visitors six minutes into the first, Winnipeg ramped it up and had an 11-8 edge at the end of the opening period.
Horvat scored his fourth goal of the season on a great effort to get around Winnipeg defenceman Jacob Trouba, hang on to a bouncing puck and shoot it past Hellebuyck at 12:54 of the second to make it 1-1.
Shots on goal were even 20-20 after the middle frame.
The Canucks were 0 for 2 on the power play and Winnipeg 2 for 2.
Vancouver defenceman Troy Stecher said returning home with six points was good and the trip showed them one important thing.
“That we never quit, that’s for sure,” Stecher said. “I think we’re a group that’s going to have to win by committee. We’re learning how to win as a group.
“Everybody’s trying to play to the best of their ability, but some nights aren’t going to go the way you want.”
Winnipeg hosts Arizona on Saturday and Vancouver takes on the visiting Boston Bruins the same day.