NEWARK — Jack Hughes set a new franchise record for points in a single season as he notched his 97th point of the year in the Devils’ 6-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
The historic point came at 18:15 of the third period on an empty net goal as the night was winding down. Hughe’s surpassed the record set by Patrik Eliáš during the 2000-01 season, when the Devils legend put up 96 points.
“I didn’t think it’d come from an empty net, we had a lot of good looks tonight,” Hughes said. “But you know, I’m really excited that happened in front of the home crowd and with one game left, it’s not much time. Put it behind you now, but I’m really excited just for me, but it’s also for the team. You know, you play with so many great players and the boys were really excited for me. Just shows how much team success we’ve had this year.
“It’s great for myself, it’s great for the team and it’s really good for the fans. I know they’re pretty pumped for me.”
To make the evening more special the moment came as Luke Hughes, Jack’s younger brother, made his NHL debut and saw 11:15 in his first pro game.
“After the game and just going up to him and telling him congrats and he said congrats to me, so it was pretty cool,” Luke Hughes said. “I’ll never forget that one. Super happy for him and he’s had a hell of a year, and he totally deserves it.”
In addition to Jack Hughes’ historic point, the Devils locked up home ice on Tuesday with the win over the Sabres in their regular season home finale and tied the franchise record for most wins in a season with their 51st of the year. The Devils last won that many games in a single season back during the 2008-09 campaign.
This season will also be the first time the Devils have home-ice advantage in the playoffs since the 2009-10 season, when New Jersey was knocked out of the first round in five games by the Philadelphia Flyers. Their only win of that series came in Newark.
The rival Rangers had been chasing the Devs in the standing for the past few weeks, but with just one game left on the calendar for New York following Tuesday night, it became impossible for them to catch New Jersey. The Devils and Rangers remain on a collision course to meet in the first round.
“Yeah, it’s huge. I think it’s such a big advantage to play here in front of our own fans. And obviously, we’re such a young group and we feel more comfortable at home so it’s great to start there,” Nathan Bastian said of clinching home ice.
The Devils had 16,514 fans on hand for the win which was the team’s 18th sellout of the season.
The Devils broke the scoreless tie after a rather benign first 10 minutes in the first period. A play that began in the New Jersey end quickly shifted the other way after Bastian dumped the puck into the offensive zone, allowing Miles Wood to put a tough angle shot on net.
The shot was stopped, but the rebound went right to Jesper Boqvist who banked the puck into the net off the skate of a defender.
The Devils added to their lead early in the second period when Jonas Siegenthaler found the back of the net. A lazy turnover by the Sabres allowed the Devils to go the other way and after some crisp passing, Siegenthaler was able to score from the top of the slot.
Buffalo looked as though they had cut the New Jersey to one moments later, but after a quick review, the play was ruled offsides. The Sabres did eventually get the goal when Jeff Skinner scored to make it a 2-1 game.
Miles Wood put the Devils back in front by two at the 9:22 mark of the middle frame. The Devils winger was able to pick up the loose puck sitting in the slot and put it past Devon Levi for New Jersey’s third goal of the night.
New Jersey extended the lead to three when Tomas Tatar sniped a shot from inside the faceoff circle with 12:50 left in the game. Mattias Samuelsson made it a 4-2 game with a goal at the 13:15 mark of the third.
Tatar sealed the win with an empty net goal with 2:32 remaining in the game and Hughes added one more empty net goal moments later.
Vitek Vanecek made 36 saves in the Devils’ win. It was his 33rd victory of the year.