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Hughes Shines as Devils Continue Leaning Into Surprising Early Season Momentum

When the schedule came out for the 2020/2021 season, many expected the Devils to have a tough start. The team would be without Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt for the time being, and their first two opponents were the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers. With that being said, New Jersey has weathered the storm and currently sit third in the division after three games, but how have they managed to do it?

Before either team could get settled in, the Devils had already taken the lead. Miles Wood found himself on the break and fired a shot at the net. Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev made the save, but Travis Zajac scored the rebound 32 seconds into the game.

A fast start for New Jersey was crucial in this game, and they continued to maintain that pressure for the first half of the opening period. 

As the period went on, the Rangers started growing into the game. The team was unable to find the back of the net in the first, but the likes of Kaapo Kakko and Pavel Buchnevich began to put more pressure on Devils goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood.

The Athletic 

New Jersey took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but Jack Hughes stole the show in the second. The 19-year-old forward has looked stronger and more confident in the early stages of his second NHL season, and it really showed in this game. 

After Chris Kreider scored the equalizer on a Rangers power play, the Devils responded with a flurry of chances. Defencemen Ty Smith took a slapshot at the net following a faceoff win in the offensive zone by Yegor Sharangovich. Georgiev mishandled the shot as a result of being screened by multiple skaters, allowing the puck to sit in the crease behind the goaltender.

Hughes was the first player to realize where the puck was, sacrificing his body in order to get his first goal of the season. 

Minutes later, New York earned their second power play of the game, but they were unable to capitalize. A misplaced shot from defender Jacob Trouba allowed Hughes to get in behind the Rangers backline. The Devils forward used his speed to create a one on one opportunity with the goaltender, and he slid the puck through his legs to give the team a 3-1 lead. 

With 7:51 left in the second period, Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad scored his first goal of the season on a power play. 

Taking advantage of the extra skater was a concern for the Devils going into this game. The team had picked up three of a possible four points in their first two games, but they were 0/8 on the power play. 

New Jersey broke that streak with a goal from the stick of Wood towards the end of the second period. Once again, Hughes was involved in the scoring for the Devils, as he had the primary assist for their fourth goal of the game. 

It looked like P. K. Subban added a fifth for New Jersey, but the goal was taken off for an offside call in the build up from forward Kyle Palmieri. The Devils would take a 4-2 lead going into the second intermission.

In the early stages of the third period, the Devils had to sustain a ton of pressure from the Rangers attack. New Jersey managed to kill a penalty for having too many men on the ice, but the shots kept coming. Rangers forward Filip Chytil scored with thirteen minutes left in the third to make it a 4-3 game.

For the rest of the period, the Devils had to undergo attack after attack from the Rangers frontline. The team committed two more penalties in the third, but they managed to kill both of them off. Blackwood made saves when he needed to, and the Devils managed to hold on to their one goal lead. 

The team will be back in action against the New York Islanders on Thursday night at 7 P.M.

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