Prudential Center—-The New Jersey Devils seems to play better when they are two games behind these days. It fuels them and somehow relaxes them on the ice.
Jack Hughes finally came alive with two goals and two assists, the New Jersey Devils kept the hopes alive in the Eastern Conference Second Round by beating the Carolina Hurricanes 8-4 in Game 3 at Prudential Center on Sunday afternoon.
“I think we were just focused right from the get go,” said Hughes, who is nominated for this year’s Lady Byng award for sportsmanship. “Up and down the lineup, a lot of compete, a lot of guys winning their battles, a lot of skating. That’s our game.”
Luke Hughes made his NHL playoff debut for NJD in Game 3 and the defenseman assisted on the Severson goal for his first playoff point. Luke Hughes, 19, was a first-round draft pick by the Devils in 2021. He gave the Devils the energy that they drastically needed.
The older Hughes set the tone early with an assist on Timo Meier’s goal with a pass from behind the pipes and smoked a second shot past goalie Frederik Andersen five minutes later.
Meier scored his first goal of the playoffs as New Jersey upped their lead to 3-0 after the first period. Hughes, who had 99 points in the regular season, assisted on the Meier goal, then scored on a shot from the right wing. Michael McLeod out hustled everyone for a shorthanded goal, flying down the ice, it was 3-0 and the crowd erupted.
Carolina goalie Frederik Andersen started his fourth straight playoff game but was taken out after Nico Hischier made it 4-0 in the second period. Pyotr Kochetkov replaced him between the pipes. Sebastian Aho got the Hurricanes on the board in the second period with his fifth goal of the playoffs, but the Devils answered quickly on a Damon Severson goal to make it 5-1.
The eight goals were the most for NJ Devils in a playoff game since they beat Washington 10-4 on April 22, 1988.
“It feels good. It’s a series now so that’s what we wanted to do, have a bounce back game and scoring eight goals is a statement, Hischier said. We still have a couple things to clean up but, hey, we’ll take a win now and it’s 2-1.”
Canes Jordan Martinook converted a penalty shot after being hooked by Dougie Hamilton on a shorthanded chance. Jordan Staal and Seth Jarvis both had shorthanded goals for the Carolina Canes in the third after the Devils had a 7-2 lead.
The game got a little testy with Aho and Jack Hughes traded punches in the second period. Hughes commented later that “it wasn’t a fight.”
“I think that kills his chance for the Lady Byng,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff joked. “And really, what was he thinking?”
Every line held the offensive zone.
Devils’ goalie Vitek Vanecek returned between the pipes and made 26 saves and even had an assist on Miles Wood’s third-period breakaway.
“We knew they were going to come with a push,” Staal said. “They were ready for us. They didn’t do anything crazy special. They got the puck in and played our style of game. They did it better than us tonight.”
Devils defenseman Ryan Graves did not play because of an upper-body injury sustained in Game 2. Luke Hughes replaced him and coach Lindy Ruff also dressed Smith, giving him seven D-men. Hurricanes goaltender Antti Raanta has not suited up as the backup the last two games because of an illness. Kochetkov has been the backup, and made 18 saves on 22 shots.
The Canes failed in its attempt to take its first 3-0 lead in a series since round 2 in 2019. The Devils are looking to become the third team in NHL history to win multiple series during a playoff year after overcoming a 2-0 deficit. They were down two games in the first round against the Rangers. Boston accomplished the feat 2011, two years after Pittsburgh. Ondrej Palat had a goal and an assist and now has 101 career playoff points (51-50) in 148 games.
The Devils will be back home Tuesday against the Canes for a 7:00 P.M.