Prudential Center— Jack Hughes had a goal and an assist with a victory against a showdown with his older brother Quinn, the New Jersey Devils beat the Vancouver Canucks 7-2 on Monday night at the Rock in Newark, NJ.
The Canucks had a series of puck-handling miscues and nonexistent goaltending play against the Devils which was weird after coming off a spectacular 5-2 victory at Madison Square Garden on Sunday but funny things can happen in the Prudential Center.
Vancouver dug an early 3-0 hole in the first period in the loss which marks the seventh-straight setback in Newark where they’ve been outscored 26-11 over that stretch.
NJD scored twice in a span of 1:59 of the second period to squash an early spurt where Vasily Podkolzin finished off a lucky double deflection of a Travis Hamonic point shot.
Mercer made it 3-0 on the power play with his 13th at 17:44 and never looked back.
“I don’t have a theory, quite frankly,” said Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau. “We talk about it and the preparation for the day and I don’t have an answer for it. I rack my brain over why in some games we play so good in the first period and in others — and in most of the year — if something bad is going to happen, it’s going to be in the first period.
“To not come out the way we were supposed to come out is shocking to me. Our gaps are definitely a problem and the speed they had, they came at us pretty good and we weren’t adjusting to it.”
Goalie Nico Daws made 36 saves and NJ scored three times in each of the first two periods, sending goaltender Jaroslav Halak with six goals on 14 shots to the bench.
Thatcher Demko replaced the 36-year-old goaltender, who headed straight to the dressing room.
Demko made 18 saves in relief.
Halak was playing too deep, looked out of sync and demoralized and was hooked in the second period after the Devils went up 6-1. Turnovers didn’t help. He would stop just eight of 14 shots and his season of misery in his 10th start will draw more attention with that performance bonus. It was the perfect storm.
Halak’s US $1.25 million performance bonus kicked in Monday. There’s an additional $250,000 for a save percentage better than .905, but he was just .899 entering Monday. A no-movement clause for the stopper has the Canucks in a slight tizzy.
Jack Hughes, Yegor Sharangovich, Dawson Mercer, Jesper Boqvist, Ryan Graves, Jesper Bratt and Dougie Hamilton scored for the Devils. Nico Hischier had two assists. Tanner Pearson had the other Canucks goal.
The Canucks had won five of six games and six of eight entering Monday night contest, there was a lack of communication and often looking off balance by being prone in the crease often.
“We didn’t match them at all, got down quick and were chasing,” said Canucks winger Conor Garland. “It’s unacceptable in a game like this and a situation like this. We have to get playing the way we need to and that’s why we were down in the first.
“Chasing games is not a recipe for success in the NHL and you get into a track meet with them and that’s what they want to do. We couldn’t let it get to three (goals) and get out of hand early.
The NJD have a 12-game winning streak against Vancouver. The last time they lost to the Canucks was Nov. 25, 2014.
“We’ve found a little momentum with the lines we’ve been using and guys can feed off each other,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. ”Their goalie had a little bit of a tough night. We got a little fortunate on some of the early goals, but it’s nice to have the table turned our way.”
The 21-year-old Daws, a third-round draft pick by New Jersey in 2020, improved to 3-1-0 this season and won his second straight contest. He also beat the Penguins 6-1 last Thursday.
“We’re super happy for him,” Boqvist said. “He’s competing hard and wants to stop every puck, so it’s fun to see him doing that in the games as well, too.”
The Canucks outshot the Devils 13-9 in the first period but left the ice down three.
Vancouver, who beat the New York Rangers 5-2 on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, lost for the third time in nine games.
“Once the first period was over and with what was said, you needed a save in the second period,” stressed Boudreau. “We scored the first goal of the second and they scored and it was a back-breaker. And the sixth one, I think at that point he was just done.
“It was just a simple shot and he missed. I’m concerned because the last two games he has been pulled after giving up five in one period and six in a little bit more than a period tonight. There’s obviously a level of concern, but he’s a professional and has gone through this before. Hopefully, he’ll bounce back.”
The Devils haven’t lost to the Canucks at home since Oct. 24, 2013, in a shootout. The teams meet again March 15 in Vancouver. It was the 4,000th regular-season game in Canucks history, dating to their first season in 1970-71. NJ are 6-12-2 against Western Conference teams.
Canucks: At the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
Devils: At the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.