Jack Hughes and the New Jersey Devils visited the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday as they begin to return to full health. Erik Haula returned to the lineup and Nico Hischier avoided injury after leaving Friday night’s contest after the second period. With the forward group mostly back intact, let’s dive into the Devils’ 5-2 victory that revealed a historic Hughes statistic.
Devils Quick Wrap
Montreal has been deploying what’s been called “The Revival Line,” however, they were no match for New Jersey Tuesday night. New Jersey’s power play went back to work again with a pair of goals from Hischier and Tyler Toffoli. Alexander Holtz added an even-strength tally, however, file it under the honorary power play goal column as he scored one second after Montreal’s penalty expired. Toffoli added two more goals to complete the hat-trick. New Jersey propelled themselves to a 5-2 victory on the back of Hughes who logged four assists. Vitek Vanecek stood tall in the contest making 27 saves on 29 shots.
Jack Hughes, man.
New Jersey’s franchise forward is off to the fastest start of his career. Through the Devils first four games, Hughes registered 10 points (four goals and six assists). He came into Tuesday night with the chance to tie or break Patrick Marleau’s record for the most points in the NHL since 2010-11 through a team’s opening five games.
He did just that.
Hughes now has 10 assists on the season thus far. What’s even more fascinating is that every single one of his assists is primary.
With New Jersey and Montreal knotted at one after the first period, Hughes went to work. The 22-year-old star started by feeding Toffoli in the second period for his second goal of the season. Later in the third, he fed Hischier on the power play. On the power play once more, Hughes tied the record by assisting on Toffoli’s second goal of the game.
With the clock running down and the Habs net empty, Ruff put Toffoli and Hughes back out on the ice.
Wouldn’t ya know it, Hughes found the puck in the neutral zone, pushed it up the ice toward Toffoli, and the veteran forward recorded the hat-trick to complete Hughes’ four-point night.
Nico “Trust Me, I’m Fine” Hischier
Whatever kept Hischier out of the third period of Friday’s game clearly was not bothering him on Tuesday.
The Devils captain looked like a force to be reckoned with on the ice in Montreal against the Canadiens. The 2023 Selke Trophy nominee was back to his ways, playing strong on pucks, creating chances in the offensive zone, and limiting them in his own end.
He’s certainly looked a lot better with his new linemates at even strength as well. Jesper Bratt and Ondrej Palat have been excellent complimentary players on each side of Hischer, allowing the Swiss forward to play to his strengths.
Hischier almost scored in the first period, a heads-up play by the New Jersey forward driving the net with Bratt transitioning the puck. Bratt put the puck on Hischier’s tape and it crossed the goal line. However, Martin St. Louis won the coach’s challenge and it was called back for goaltender interference.
Later, in the second period, Hischier lined up for another prime scoring chance, this time on the man advantage. A shot from the point was stopped by Primeau and Hischier, battling in the slot, got another chance off on the Montreal goaltender before the puck was covered up.
The Devils are relentless in the offensive zone, but Primeau is standing tall.
Good save on the Hughes + Hischier combo: pic.twitter.com/WReXtvVkLw
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) October 25, 2023
Later in the third period, Hischier finally cashed in on his plethora of scoring chances. While on the power play, Hughes fed Hischier from below the goal line and the Devils captain beat Primeau clean for his first goal of the season. Hischier, on the attack all night, surely deserved to have one or two more in the goal column.
Hischier ended the game with a goal, a 61.54 CF%, and 74.30 xGF%. Oh, and he went 13/19 in the faceoff dot winning 68.4% of draws.
Ruff pulled the trigger on shaking the lines up early in the season. It worked well in New Jersey’s first game with the new-look forward group and it was equally as good in the encore.
The Devils’ top six all looked elite against the Canadiens. However, the Toffoli, Hughes, and Timo Meier line is especially frightening.
Hughes continues to do what he does best. He gets the opponent’s attention with his unique East-West skating, distributes the puck at a highly elite rate, and creates a ton of scoring chances. Toffoli is a pure goal-scorer, thus his hat-trick tonight.
However, rounding out that duo is Meier. Hughes held no reservations when speaking his mind about the Devils’ highest-paid forward. They expect more out of him after he was benched two games ago. Meier responded well last game and the 220 lb forward rode that wave of momentum to Montreal. Meier provided the primary assist on the Devils’ first goal, creating chaos at the top of Primeau’s crease, and tapped the rebound back to Holtz who shoveled the puck over the goal line.
Later in the second frame, Meier forced a turnover as Montreal was trying to break out of their own end. After Meier laid the body on Kovacevic, the puck trickled back to Hughes who found Toffoli in the slot and the former Canadian forward made no mistake.
Meier finished Tuesday night with one assist. However, he was instrumental at 5-on-5 helping create 21 chances for while allowing just six while he was on the ice, per Natural Stat Trick. Meier also contributed to high-danger chances at an elite rate with an 88.86 xGF%.
Meier’s on a mission to never ride the pine pony again. So far, it’s quite good.
- New Jersey had a healthy night in the faceoff dot. In addition to Hischier’s big night (see above), Curtis Lazar went a perfect 4/4 in the dot and Michael McLeod won 13/15 faceoffs.
For the Montreal perspective on Tuesday’s tilt, be sure to check in with Montreal Hockey Now.