Jim and Ellen Hughes might not have been able to show much emotion in Vancouver, but Jack and Luke certainly could. The Devils visited the Canucks in the first-ever Hughesday affair as all three brothers played in the same NHL game for the first time in their careers.
It appeared early that New Jersey had a handle on Vancouver, however, a late third-period push by the Canucks made things a bit more interesting.
Fortunately, the Devils managed to walk away with two points. Let’s dive into New Jersey’s 6-5 victory to kick off their four-game road trip.
Devils Quick Wrap
The first period got off to a roaring start as the Devils and Canucks scored six goals in the opening frame. Four different Devils players got on the board early with goals from Jesper Bratt, Erik Haula, Jack Hughes, and Michael McLeod. On the Canucks side of the ice, it was J.T. Miller and Dakota Joshua who scored for Vancouver. It was a slower second period, however, as Luke Hughes was the only goal scorer in the middle frame, a point blast on the power play. However, three third-period goals by Brock Boeser, Sam Lafferty, and Nils Hoglander almost squandered a chance at two points for New Jersey. Fortunately, Bratt called game with 33 seconds on the board, scoring his second goal of the night.
Vitek Vanecek recorded 27 saves for New Jersey. Thatcher Demko stopped 26 pucks.
Clean it up, Jack
Devils forward Jack Hughes is far and away the most talented player on the team.
However, sometimes that skill and finesse get Jack into trouble. It certainly did in the first period of Tuesday night’s contest. New Jersey controlled the puck around their blue line and was attempting to push it up ice. Jack, with the puck on his stick and skating east to west, attempted to drop the puck for Colin Miller. However, the Canucks intercepted the pass which caused Miller to take a tripping penalty.
As a result, the Devils’ 22nd-ranked penalty kill heading into Tuesday night faced the Canucks’ fourth-ranked power play. Miller eventually cashed in, depositing the rebound created by Boeser.
Jack typically handles the puck and distributes it extremely well. However, over the last couple of games, he’s been making some careless mistakes with the puck that have directly impacted the game. As New Jersey’s best player, he’ll need to clean up the turnovers.
Jack ended the night with a strong performance on paper scoring a goal and two assists on six shots. However, he can make things a bit easier on his team with fewer turnovers.
Net-Front Presence Pays Off
Head coach Lindy Ruff put a heavy emphasis on the lack of net-front presence following the Devils’ embarrassing loss to the San Jose Sharks last week.
However, New Jersey, at least for one night, rectified that issue just in the opening frame. Three out of the Devils’ first four goals all came at the top of Demko’s crease.
On the Devils’ first goal, New Jersey did well winning a puck battle below Vancouver’s goal line. Haula, recognizing the play, heads to the top of Demko’s crease where Jack finds the veteran forward wide open for the easy tap-in.
Later, the Devils win a faceoff in Vancouver’s end of the ice back to the blue line. Recognizing the play, Jack and Tyler Toffoli create some traffic in front of the Vancouver goaltender. Following a shot from the point initially saved by Demko, Jack buries the rebound to give New Jersey a two-goal lead.
Michael McLeod scored just under two minutes later in a similar fashion to Jack, as the Devils win puck possession in the Canucks’ end of the ice. McLeod parked himself on Demko’s doorstep while Nathan Bastian served as a distractor planted directly in the Vancouver goaltender’s line of sight. A shot by Curtis Lazar was initially saved, but McLeod was there to swipe in the rebound.
In the closing moments of the game, Bratt tapped in a rebound chance with 33 seconds remaining the ultimately won the game. New Jersey certainly made an effort to be more present in their opponent’s crease on Tuesday and it paid off.
It’s certainly an art that’s eluded the Devils this season, however, they got back to basics on Tuesday night that helped them collect two points.
Timely Saves, But Not Enough
Speaking of things Ruff emphasized last week, timely saves were one of those things. He wasn’t perfect, but Vanecek provided a few.
Akira Schmid received back-to-back starts after the 23-year-old goaltender recorded a career-high 44 saves against the Philadelphia Flyers last Thursday. It didn’t quite work out the same way on Friday when Schmid allowed six goals on just 18 shots.
Schmid starting two in a row afforded Vanecek six days of rest before Tuesday night. In some instances, it appeared to pay off. However, he still gave up X goals.
Focusing on the third period, the Canucks controlled the even strength chance differential 8-6 in the second period and certainly could have headed into the final 20 minutes with a lesser deficit. One save, in particular, came against Boeser, a follow-up pad save after stopping the initial shot from the point.
Unfortunately, Vanecek couldn’t maintain his second-period composure, succumbing to the Canucks’ third-period pressure by allowing three goals.
The Devils goaltender ended the night recording -1.1 goals saved above expected, according to MoneyPuck.
- Jesper Bratt snaps an eight-game goalless drought.
- Both Jack and Luke Hughes recorded at least one goal.
- All three Hughes brothers registered at least one point.