3 Takeaways From the Coyotes’ 5-3 Loss to the Winnipeg Jets

Barrett Hayton has been up against the league’s top talent so often this season, it’s easy to forget he’s just a 21-year-old with only 65 NHL games to his name.

His performance on Sunday afternoon against the Winnipeg Jets, though, won’t soon be forgotten.

Related: 3 Takeaways From the Coyotes’ 3-1 Win Over the Vegas Golden Knights

Hayton’s first period highlight-reel goal will be shown in replays for the foreseeable future, though the effort wasn’t enough to muscle the Arizona Coyotes past the Jets in a Sunday matinee. Winnipeg’s Kyle Connor scored twice en route to a 5-3 win over the Coyotes.

Here’s what we learned from the loss on Sunday.

Hayton’s Offensive Potential on Full Display

The game itself was a see-saw affair, as the teams traded leads throughout the first two period before the Jets took control in the third. The first 40 minutes, though, were wildly entertaining that had a little bit of everything, including an absolutely dazzling goal from Hayton, which tied the game at two late in the opening frame.

After carrying the puck through the neutral zone, the former fifth-overall draft pick cut through three defenders before backhanding the puck past Jets goalie Eric Comrie, finishing a spectacular individual effort while helping the Coyotes rally from their second deficit of the period.

“I think they were coming off a change, they were a little flat-footed, so I was able to kind of get the guy going to the left, and then pull it back, and then come in on the goalie with some speed, and make a move to the backhand,” Hayton said. “It definitely felt good to get that one.”

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Hayton’s goal electrified the crowd, and also his teammates, who were all smiles after the tally.

“That was definitely a fun one,” he said. “The boys were joking around with me, we were definitely having some fun, and it definitely felt really good.”

New arrival Nick Ritchie scored his first with the club to give the Coyotes a 3-2 lead in the second period, banking in a shot off Comrie from a bad angle. Hayton’s secondary assist on the play marked his second career multi-point game, and he now has 10 points on four goals and six assists in 31 games this season.

He has also been consistent for Arizona in the face off dot this season, and was 9-for-13 on Sunday.

Expectations have been high since the Coyotes selected Hayton in the first round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, and coach André Tourigny said he understands the high hopes, but also called out how difficult it has been for the young forward to break into the league against the powerhouse offenses in the league.

Barrett Hayton Arizona Coyotes
Barrett Hayton recorded a goal and an assist on Sunday against the Jets. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Since returning from an injury on Feb. 19, Hayton has been provided some relief from top-six minutes, and has four points in five games to show for it.

“Right now he’s more in a role where, against the opponent who he plays, and his teammates, it’s more fair for him,” Tourigny said. “I think we give him a better chance by using him that way, to kind of take off, then using him the way we did in the first half.”

Ritchie-Hayton-Eriksson Line Stepped Up

Ritchie already seems to have found some chemistry on the team just two days into his Coyotes tenure, as the combination of Ritchie, Hayton, and Loui Eriksson accounted for two goals and four assists against the Jets. Eriksson earned a secondary assist on defenseman Jakob Chychrun’s first-period blast, his first goal since Nov. 18, and picked up another helper on Ritchie’s second-period tally.

Ritchie, who assisted on Hayton’s goal, recorded his first multi-point game since May 1, 2021, with the Boston Bruins. Just one game removed from his Coyotes debut, there seems to be a little chemistry early on.

“He’s a big dude, you know, he’s heavy in his battle, and he’s going to the net,” Tourigny said. “Let’s not forget Loui Eriksson, he’s playing really well, he’s making really good plays with the puck, and he’s a good compliment to those guys. They were our best line today.”

Ritchie, Hayton, and Eriksson moved the puck well on Sunday while also playing a defensively-responsible game, and it showed on the scoresheet as well, as each of them finished at least plus-1. Hayton said after the game that Ritchie’s size has already made an impact when up against odd-man rushes, while also bringing an elevated skillset to the table.

“I think in the last game there was a couple instances where we just weren’t quite connected, some of the looks and reads and stuff like that were a little bit off, but I felt tonight Ritchie and Loui were both great,” he said. “They managed the puck really well and I thought we supported each other really well and I thought we were pretty cohesive for it being our second game together.”

Missed Opportunities Turn into Opposition Goals

Perhaps the most frustrating part of Sunday’s game wasn’t the goals that the Coyotes, but moreso the chances that led to those goals. Despite entering the third period with a 3-2 lead, Winnipeg scored twice within the first 5:30 to take the lead.

Both times, the Jets created the scoring chances following Arizona’s inability to capitalize on their own grade-A chances.

“We did not play as heavy as we did last game,” Tourigny said. “I think if you look at the game, it is not any play or one area that is the focus and the urgency of our game. The pressure, the puck carrier, the physicality in our battle, the positioning in some areas, the desire to get inside the offensive zone and get that rebound and that goal (were) not at the same level.”

Scott Wedgewood Arizona Coyotes
Scott Wedgewood made 33 saves in Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the Jets. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler tied it on a 2-on-1 break after the Coyotes turned it over in their own offensive zone, and Kyle Connor gave the Jets the lead just two minutes later with the first of his two goals — on yet another odd-man rush. That one especially stung, considering Phil Kessel was denied at the goal mouth just moments before.

Goalie Scott Wedgewood did all he could, stopping 33 of the 37 shots he faced on Sunday, but the result was disappointing after Arizona entered the period with a one-goal lead.

“Going into the third with a 3-2 lead is something we’ve been trying to focus on, kind of sticking with the process and not worrying too much about the outcome, just taking it moment by moment and try to stay aggressive and play that way,” Hayton said. “I think that’s something that’s tough to swallow, finishing the game like that and giving up a couple there when we had that lead going into the third.”

The Coyotes are back in action on March 3 against the league-leading Colorado Avalanche. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm MST.