NEWARK — The Devils set the tone of the night when they scored three goals in the first period on their way to an 8-4 Game 3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Jack Hughes had another dominating playoff effort in a four-point night that saw him score twice and add two assists. Luke Hughes had two points in his first career playoff game, while Timo Meier, Michael McLeod, Nico Hischier, Damon Severson, Miles Wood and Ondrej Palat also scored.
The victory cut the Devils’ series deficit to 2-1 heading into Game 4 at Prudential Center on Tuesday as things have taken an oddly familiar turn like they did in the last series. The Devils turned back to Vitek Vanecek in the third game of the second round, creating a similar spark that they found in the previous series against the New York Rangers.
Vanecek finished the night with 26 saves as the Devils scored at least eight goals in a playoff game for the first time since April 22, 1988.
“We knew we had to be better. You know this group totally understands where we’re at,” Devils head coach Lindy Ruff said. “We were down 0-2 before. We knew that tough defensive series against the Rangers. We knew this was going to be tough. But, you know, I think to get to start we did and get those guys on the board. The game Nico had, you know Timo, the way he played physically. The goal he got, the other opportunities. Really felt that our top guys from (Palat) to Nico gave us what we needed.”
Meier’s goal 5:58 into the first period kicked off the scoring and ended a playoff goal drought for the Devils’ trade deadline acquisition. Hughes battled behind the Carolina net for the puck and moved it to Meier who was able to slam the puck home from the side of the net.
Meier had gone through New Jersey’s first nine playoff games without a goal before Sunday afternoon.
“Obviously I try to fairly go out there and score, especially take advantage of the chances,” Meier said. “If you look at the last game, we had chances in the first and we don’t bury them, and then sometimes, you know, they get a chance and they take advantage of it. So I think it was it was good to get a goal early. But overall just, you know, you got to stick with it. So today we did a good job. we got in front of the goalie, we got in those areas where we can score goals.”
The Devils made it 2-0 at 10:55 in the first when he played a bit of give and go, sending the puck to Brendan Smith who sent it right back to Hughes for the powerful one-timer. It was Hughes’ fourth of the postseason and his second of the period.
McLeod made it a three-goal advantage when he scored a shorthanded goal after powering by Seth Jarvis and slipping it by Frederik Andersen with 7:29 left in the opening frame.
The Devils continued their assault less than a minute into the second period when Hischier scored his first playoff goal of the year and drove Andersen from the net. The Hurricanes responded with a goal of their own when Sebastian Aho scored a little more than a minute later to make it a 4-1 game.
Severson gave the Devils back their four-goal lead when he scored at the 5:53 mark of the middle frame, but the Hurricanes manage to get another goal before the period ended. Dougie Hamilton was called for hooking Jordan Martinook on the breakaway, with the officials awarding him a penalty shot and Martinook finding a way to beat Vanecek.
Wood scored just over three minutes into the third to make it 6-2 and Hughes scored his second of the game minutes later to make it a 7-2 advantage. A disastrous power play by the Devils in the middle of the third gave the Hurricanes some life.
Jordan Staal scored a shorthanded goal at 7:21 to cut the Devils’ lead to 7-3 and a goal from Seth Jarvis 50 seconds later cut the Devils’ lead to just three. Carolina set an NHL record by scoring three short-handed goals in the game.
Palat’s power-play goal at 10:47 of the third secured the win.
“I think we’re just we’re focused right from the get-go,” Jack Hughes said. “You know, we got the first goal, which is huge. And then up and down the lineup a lot of compete. A lot of guys winning their battles, a lot of skating and that’s our game. So we’ve got to our game right away and it showed tonight.”