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Flyers’ Kevin Hayes Benched in Final Period of 2-1 Win in N.J.

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Kevin Hayes. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Photo: AP.

Forward Kevin Hayes is the Philadelphia Flyers leading scorer with 29 points in 31 games this season.

That didn’t prevent coach John Tortorella from surprisingly benching him for the third period of the Flyers’ 2-1 win Thursday in New Jersey.

After the victory, Tortorella declined answering why he sat Hayes, who wasn’t playing a strong game, and his turnover led to an odd-man Devils rush late in the second period.

“It was my decision not to play him, but I’m not going to get too involved in that,” Tortorella said.

Hayes, whose first-period hooking penalty led to New Jersey’s goal, played just 9:47 and had no shots in the game.

Tortorella also benched Hayes earlier in the season. The veteran forward has had a very good offensive year, but has had some defensive lapses. Those lapses caused Tortorella to shift him from center to wing, where he has less defensive responsibilities.

Hayes, 30, made the move without complaint.

“I think he’s in a better spot playing wing, where he doesn’t get as many opportunities as far as low coverage, and where there’s some struggles in his game,” Tortorella said last month. “I’m trying to take the pressure off him defensively.”

It would be surprising if Hayes, who signed a seven-year, $50-million deal before the 2019-20 season, was benched Saturday night, when the Flyers host one of his former teams, the New York Rangers.

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