Jack Hughes scores 1, sets up 2 by Jesper Bratt, Devils beat Canes 3-0

New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes skates past Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov after scoring a goal during the first period of a NHL hockey game, Sunday, March 12, 2023, in Newark, N.J.
AP Photo/Adam Hunger

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Jack Hughes stole a puck and scored early and set up two goals by Jesper Bratt to lead the New Jersey Devils past Carolina 3-0 Sunday night to tie the Hurricanes for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

Vitek Vanecek had 32 saves for his third shutout of the season.

New Jersey and Carolina both have 94 points, although the Hurricanes have played one fewer game.

Pyotr Kochetkov made 20 saves for the Hurricanes, who were coming off a 4-0 loss to Vegas on Saturday. The consecutive shutout losses were the first for Carolina since January 2014. The Hurricanes are scoreless in their last eight periods.

Carolina was it’s own worst enemy in this one, as two of New Jersey’s goals came on giveaways.

Hughes came up quickly behind defenseman Calvin de Haan as he handled the puck in his own end, stole it and swooped in on Kochetkov before squeezing a shot between his pads for his 37th goal at 6:44 of the first period. It ended a six-game goal drought.

With the teams playing 4 on 4 minutes just over two minutes later, Hughes led a 2-on-2 break into the Carolina end and found Bratt behind defenseman Brett Pesce. His quick shot beat Kochetkov to the short side.

The final goal came 4:31 into the second period. Hughes knocked down a pass up the ice by the Hurricanes’ goalie and found Bratt on a play he knocked the puck into the net while on the ice for his 27th.

Vanecek preserved the shutout with a point-blank save on Hurricanes leading goal scorer Sebastian Aho in the second period and an in-close close stop on Jesper Fast in the third.

NOTES: Devils second-year forward Dawson Mercer had his 12-game point streak snapped. … The teams split their four-game season series. … Carolina played without Andrei Svechnikov. He sustained a lower body injury Saturday. … Devils F Erik Haula played in his 600th NHL game.