Newark,NJ—The first-ever game between the New Jersey Devils and the Seattle Kraken was a very testy with bodies flying over the ice.
NJ scored two quick goals to take an early lead, that they would never relinquish in a 4-2 victory over the NHL expansion team. Early the first period, Dawson Mercer scored his first career NHL goal which Damon Severson followed a minute later.
New Jersey won their second straight game to start off the NHL season. The Kraken fall to 1-3-1 on its five-game road trip heading to their much-anticipated home opener against Vancouver on Saturday night.
“We battled hard tonight, we had a push to get back,″ Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said. ”We just ran out of time, ran out of gas.”
Late in the first period, an vicious hit knocked center Jack Hughes out of the remainder of the game. Hughes is listed as day-to-day, according to coach Lindy Ruff.
Seattle appeared to make it a 3-2 with just over three minutes left in the second. But an apparent goal by Alex Wennberg was ruled to be offsides after a challenge by the Devils.
The Kraken cut the deficit to a goal, scoring on a 5-on-3 advantage at 14:48 when McCann converted for his third goal of the season. Mark Giordano and Yanni Gourde assisted on the play. A Pavel Zacha slashing penalty and a Damon Severson tripping penalty were called eight seconds apart to give the Kraken the advantage.
With a pulled goalie in the final two minutes of play, Pavel Zacha scored into an empty net with 20 second left in the game to seal the win.
NJ were battle tested through the penalty kill unit, which was issue for them last season, but they seem to manage it a little better in this early season.
“The way we played the third period, we will win a lot of games,” said Ruff. “We played the game the right way. I thought we defended well with the empty net goal, so there was a lot of improvement in how we finished that game.
There were three separate fights took place on the ice between the Seattle and New Jersey players. That doesn’t include the numerous jawing and shoving the pursued. Two of those fights came after the hard hit that knocked Jack Hughes out of the game.
“I liked it,” said Ruff on the physical response by the team. “We still responded, we still didn’t like the hit. We didn’t like the fact that he was injured on the play.”
Riley Sheahan and Jared McCann scored for Seattle. Goalie Joey Daccord made 28 saves.
The two teams combined for 74 penalty minutes in the game, including 58 in the second period alone. Much of that was escalated by second period fights between Devils Mason Geertsen and Jonas Siegenthaler against Seattle’s Jeremy Lauzon and Ryan Donato, respectively.
“You see some of the teams that have brought in some tougher players, some guys not afraid to stand up for their teammates or themselves for that matter,” said Severson. “It just goes to show that when there’s a guy like that that gets hit.. doesn’t matter who it is… we’re not going to watch and let that one go by. We’re going to take care of business and that’s a good job by our guys to do that.”
Devils goalie Jonathan Bernier made 27 saves and was a force and the pipes.
“I liked our ending,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “The way we played the third, we will win a lot of games. I thought we defended well.”
Devils: Host Washington Capitals on Thursday night.
Kraken: Host Vancouver Canucks on Saturday in their home opener and the first game of a four-game homestand.