The most important New Jersey Devils game since…? It had been quite some time since they had played in such a meaningful game this late into a season, but they stood up to the task against the Carolina Hurricanes. With the 3-0 shutout win, they moved into a tie for first place in the Metropolitan Division with the Hurricanes at 94 points. Here are four takeaways and some quick hits from the big win.
Hughes & Bratt Shine
To win a game against a team as good as the Hurricanes, your star players need to step up. The Devils got stellar performances from Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt, and they made their presence known almost immediately. Hughes opened up the scoring about seven minutes into the contest after pickpocketing Calvin De Haan in his own end and sliding the puck through Pyotr Kochetkov’s five-hole for a 1-0 lead.
Bratt followed about two minutes later, scoring a tally after a sweet pass from Hughes; he also shot the puck through Kochetkov’s five-hole. Bratt would add the game’s final goal in the second period after Kochektkov misplayed the puck behind his net. The two markers snapped a four-game goal drought for Bratt and moved him to 27 goals this season. Hughes’ goal broke a six-game stretch without a tally, bringing his total to 37 in 62 games; he also added two assists.
Just how dominant were Hughes and Bratt? Hughes’ game score — an all-encompassing stat that measures a player’s total value for a single game — of 3.66 was his fifth-best of the season. Bratt’s game score of 3.05 was also his fifth-best of 2022-23.
Hughes and Bratt weren’t going to be left off the scoresheet forever, and they picked a perfect time to break out of their “slumps.” With three games against the Tampa Bay Lightning this week, the Devils will need similar efforts from two of their best forwards.
Not only did Bratt and Hughes break out of a funk, but Vitek Vanecek had his best start in nearly three weeks. After having a .821 save percentage across his last five outings, Vanecek stopped all 32 Hurricanes shots and saved 2.69 goals above expected. It was the first time he finished with an SV% above .900 since Feb. 18 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 5-2 win.
It was evident that Vanecek could be in for a bounce-back when he made a save on Stefan Noesen on a 2-on-1 about six minutes into the game. It became clear when he made a point-blank glove save on Sebastian Aho about five minutes into the second frame. Vanecek’s…
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