NEWARK — Don’t make Devils star Jack Hughes angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
If the comparison to Roy Kent fit the last series, perhaps the similarities between Hughes and the Incredible Hulk would work this round. Hughes put up a four-point game (two goals, two assists) while helping New Jersey pick up a much-needed Game 3 win to cut the series deficit with the Carolina Hurricanes to 2-1.
In the process, Hughes scored two impressive goals, showed off his playmaking ability, and perhaps the biggest surprise of them all, he go into his first NHL scrap. Hughes wasn’t overly thrilled with Sebastian Aho’s crosscheck on him.
It eventually led to the Devils’ star and Aho throwing a few jabs at one another at the side of the Carolina net before Hughes took Aho down with an MMA-style takedown that would have made MMA star Aljamain Sterling proud. The ferocity was something new even to Luke Hughes, who was making his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut on Sunday night for the Devils.
However, Jack Hughes was quick to correct his younger brother one thing. “That’s not a fight,” the Devils’ forward was quick to interject.
“That was just him kind of cross-checking me and giving it to me,” Hughes said. “And I had enough of that, so it’s playoffs. It’s competitive. It’s intense. And, you know, like I said, he’s their top player, and they want him on the ice. My team wants me on the ice, so I don’t know if you can expect that again, but that’s just that’s hockey right there.”
While his Devils teammates aren’t looking for the Lady Byng finalist to turn into a brawler on the ice, the effort in that moment was certainly appreciated by everyone in the New Jersey locker room. It highlighted the ability for Jack Hughes to do just about everything on the ice.
“I loved it,” Michael McLeod said about the instance. “Kind of saw him on the ice throwing some punches and that gets everyone on the bench going. It’s awesome to see. Obviously, you don’t want that but he’s gonna do it.”
Devils head coach Lindy Ruff joked that Hughes’ chances at the Lady Byng, which is awarded to the player who shows the best sportsmanship on the ice, had gone out the window. Brendan Smith made a similar joke.
“It was great. I mean, the kid’s great,” Smith said. “He stood up for himself and Aho is a tough customer. He kind of pile-drived him, so (Hughes) stands up for himself. We don’t need that cause Jack’s arguably one of the best players in the world.”
As the rising star said, he likely won’t be in any more scraps going forward, but the lore of playoff Jack Hughes continues to grow with each game.