WINNIPEG - The man Winnipeg Jets fans affectionately refer to as "Big Buff" lived up to the nickname on Saturday night.
Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and an assist for the Jets and at points in the night looked to be in a different gear compared to everyone else in a 5-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"It's just confidence, knowing that I can protect the puck and find time and room for somebody else to get open and hopefully they can make it happen afterwards," Byfuglien said when asked about his performance.
Byfuglien assisted on the Jets' (20-12-7) first goal of the game— which was scored by T.J Galiardi— and was at it again, leading the Leafs on wild goose chase before Ben Chiarot let one go from the point that was tipped by Matt Halischuk to make it 2-1.
Byfuglien then scored his ninth of the season with just under 10 minutes left in the second to put the Jets up 3-1.
"I'm playing pretty good. I'm just running with what I've got right now and enjoying every minute of it."
Leafs (21-16-3) captain Dion Phaneuf said Byfuglien's goal turned the tide in the game.
"We got beat on a night where we started the game the way we would have liked to start," said Phaneuf.
Mike Santorelli opened the scoring for Toronto early in the second after batting the puck out of the air to make it 1-0.
"We (then) seemed to have breakdown after break down and the next thing its 3-1 for them and the momentum has shifted," said Phaneuf.
The Leafs were certainly feeling the effects at the end of a gruelling, season-high seven-game road trip, in which they finished with just two wins.
"This has been a terrible trip for our team," said Phaneuf.
"We didn't get nearly the results we wanted or needed and we got to go home and regroup because this has been a not a very good trip all-around."
"It's been a busy week with a lot of travel and some tough teams on the road," Leafs goaltender James Reimer added. "Tonight, maybe we were a little tired, but I don't want to give that as an excuse. We are all professionals and we got to find a way to win these games when we are tired."
Phaneuf agreed with his netminder.
"I don't think we are in the position to use our schedule as our excuse," he said.
Somewhat lost in the mix of Byfuglien's fine play was the milestone hit by his defensive partner Ben Chariot.
Chiarot, the rookie defenceman who started the year with the Jets' AHL affiliate in St. John's, scored his first career NHL goal.
"I'm obviously pretty happy about it," said Chiarot. "That was one of the keys in our game plan tonight, getting pucks to the net. It was a great faceoff by Little there and I just put it on net."
"I'm proud of him, he's really earned it," said Byfuglien. "He's had to go through a lot playing with me."
Michael Hutchinson was solid when called upon for the Jets, making 20 saves for his 10th win of the season. Reimer fell to 6-7-0 with the loss after allowing five goals on 40 shots.
The Jets snapped a two-game skid with the win.
"It was a big game for us, you never really want to lose three in a row," said Galiardi, who fired home his first goal of the season. "We weren't happy with the way things were going there, but we showed tonight we can bounce right back."
Toronto was without the services of Nazem Kadri, Joffrey Lupul and Peter Holland, all out with injuries.
Winnipeg played without its top four defencemen— Mark Stuart, Zach Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom and Jacob Trouba— as well as forward Evander Kane.
Both teams played to a scoreless first 20 minutes. The Jets had the edge in shots, 10-6.
Santorelli opened the scoring for Toronto 2:19 into the second period, but the Jets responded just 1:10 later as Galiardi scored.
Little added his team-leading 15th goal of the season in the third period and Chiarot made it 5-1 with 9:05 remaining in regulation.
The Jets improved to 7-2-1 against the Leafs since moving from Atlanta in 2011.
Toronto returns to the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday for a contest against the Washington Capitals.
Winnipeg welcomes the San Jose Sharks on Monday night before heading on the road for three games.