Entering Game 3 the New Jersey Devils knew they needed more offense from their top guys. It was a storyline that was addressed on Full Press Hockey prior to the puck being dropped. Well, from the word go, the Devils took it to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Devils defeated the Hurricanes by a score of 8-4 as the offence was led by Jack Hughes.
Like most of the rest of the Devils, Hughes had a rough two games in Carolina. Similar to the beginning of the Rangers. However, Jack Hughes broke out with a four-point performance (two goals and two assists) to bring the crowd at Prudential Center to their feet.
Hughes was everywhere on the ice and involved as the Devils used their speed and transition game to perfection. The addition of Luke Hughes in the lineup definitely helped. Luke recorded two assists in his first playoff game as the Hughes brothers combined for six points.
“I thought Luke had a great night,” head coach Lindy Ruff said post game, “From the first shift to the end of the game, for the young man to step in the way he did, to play the way he did, he skated, handled the puck under pressure sometimes, going back for pucks. You expect maybe to get a good game, I thought he gave us a great game.”
Back to the offence. Not only was Jack Hughes in the zone, but this was the type of game the rest of the players needed. Jack Hughes had a nice pass to Timo Meier on the Devils first goal of the game. It was Meier’s first goal of the playoffs. It only took 34 shots to the first goal. Hopefully, that gets him going as the Devils will need him and the rest of the top players to score goals if they want to win.
New Jersey took a quick 2-0 lead with a little puck luck as Jack Hughes got his fourth of the playoffs. Brendan Smith and J. Hughes had a quick give-and-go with the puck hitting the Hurricanes defenseman’s stick. J. Hughes settled the puck down and fired it by goalie Frederik Andersen.
With the Devils pressing in the offensive and looking for more, J. Hughes took the puck out of the corner making a fancy. He took the put to the net and flipped it passed Pyotr Kochetkov to make it 7-2 Devils. The Devils chased Andersen from the net with Kochetkov replacing him. That was his fourth point of the night. His other assist came on Damon Severson‘s second-period goal.
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But along with J. Hughes, the big boys for the Devils came to play.
Along with Meier getting his first goal of the playoffs, Nico Hischier finally got his first of the playoffs in the second period to go along with his assist early in the game. That came 53 seconds into the second period. Meier, Hughes, and Hischier were not the only big guns to get in on the action. Jesper Bratt had two assists. Ondrej Palat had a goal and an assist, Dawson Mercer had three assists, with the defence chipping in as well. Not to mention Michael McLeod scoring another shorthanded goal.
In total these players 14 points. It was much needed after being held pointless in the first two games in Carolina. But they will need another effort like this to even the series on Tuesday. With these players finally getting on the board, the goals and points should come. You could see Meier, Bratt, and Hischier gripping their sticks a little more. They were feeling the pressure of not scoring. That should be gone now.
It was a total team effort from the Devils. However, there are things they need to clean up, especially on the power play. If you include the regular season, the Devils have given up seven shorthanded goals against the Hurricanes. Three in Game 3. One of which was a penalty shot. That is not good.
Though the Devils won the game, they must be better defensively in their own zone. Not to mention, they need to get a save. Vitek Vanecek started Game 3. He let up some goals in the second and third periods. These high-scoring games can hurt a goalie’s confidence. It will be interesting to see if head coach Lindy Ruff makes a goalie switch. Most likely Vanecek starts Game 4.
One thing is for the Devils will most likely roll with the same lineup of 11 forwards and seven defensemen. This allows their top players to be on the ice more. Which gives the Devils a better matchup on the ice.
New Jersey is back in the series with a statement win on home ice with Game 4 going Tuesday night. The Devils know they have to continue to play the same way to even this series at 2-2.
- Jack Hughes is the first Devils player to have a four-point game in the playoffs since Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner in 2006.
- Devils and Hurricanes combined for four shorthanded goals. It was the first time since the 1980s that teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs combined for four shorthanded goals.
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