The Devils were never going to get out of their 2-0 hole in the series against the Hurricanes if their stars couldn’t get into the scoring column.
Aside from Jack Hughes, New Jersey’s powerhouse offense was getting little to nothing from its regular season standouts, as Timo Meier, Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt entered Game 3 with a combined goal (an empty Bratt net) after scoring 103 goals in the regular season.
The storyline leading up to Sunday’s pivotal game three was the arrival of a new face in top prospect Luke Hughes, but as the game unfolded, the story quickly turned into the awakening of the team’s already established standouts who finally they broke through.
Meier, Hischier and Jack Hughes (twice) found the back of the net in the first 22 minutes of action to help the Devils take a 4-0 lead and set the tone for an 8-4 win at The Rock. . as New Jersey responded with a much-improved effort for the second straight series after looking outmatched in the first two games.
New Jersey’s reinvigorated scoring attack chased down Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen early in the second after New Jersey pulled Akira Schmid from Friday’s Game 2 disaster, eventually coming back to Vitek Vanecek.
The win catapulted the Devils back into the series and saw the team’s stars finally make an impact in the scoring column.
Meier started the scoring, taking a pass behind the net from Jack Hughes and tucking it inside the right post, just through Andersen’s spread bag, when Meier was finally able to break through after knocking on the door throughout the playoffs with 32 shots
New Jersey’s stars continued to shine as Jack Hughes fired a top shot past Anderson just five minutes later, sending a focused pass to Brendan Smith over the circles, and Smith messaged back to Hughes in the right circle.
New Jersey found itself in all-too-familiar penalty trouble later in the first period when Tomas Tatar took a high stick in the offensive zone. But Michael McLeod, in the opening seconds of the kill, used the boards to hit the puck past Brett Burns on his own end, then went coast to coast while guarding Seth Jarvis’ puck before launching a forehand across from hole five. from Andersen for a short goal.
The count gave the Devils a commanding 3–0 lead, and gave the team more goals in the first 12:30 of game three than in the first two games of the series combined.
New Jersey picked up right where it left off to start the second period, when Hischier broke through with his first of the postseason as Bratt entered the zone and fell to the ice behind the net, but was able to get to his feet after a shot from Hischier bounced into the far corner. Bratt, while still getting up off the ice, threw a backhand pass back to Hischier, who hit a hard shot for a 4-0 lead.
After Carolina recovered a courtesy of Sebastian Aho, the Devils got back to work when Damon Severson, with passes from the Hughes brothers, plowed through the Hurricanes defense and fired a shot past Pyotr Kochetkov’s blocker to score. boost New Jersey’s lead. back to four early in the second, and giving Luke Hughes the first playoff point of his career.
Game 3 also brought plenty of physical activity from the revived Devils, who were nearly even with the Canes in a first quarter that saw a combined 35 hits, and in the second quarter, Jack Hughes countered a cross check by Aho, throwing to the Caroline star. onto the ice and throwing punches before the two parted ways.
The Newark crowd roared their appreciation for the rare display of their star throwing punches and being sent to the penalty box. But the willingness to get physical, coupled with the resurgence of the team’s leading scorers, accounted for the drastic change in New Jersey’s identity after two lopsided losses early in the series.
With their top contributors suddenly back in the playoffs, so are the Devils.
Follow Ryan Chichester on Twitter: @ryanchichester1
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