New Jersey Devils Blow Past Carolina Hurricanes with a Tornado of Goals

Nico Hischier #13 and Vitek Vanecek #41 of the New Jersey Devils celebrate the win over the Carolina Hurricanes after the game at Prudential Center on March 12, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey. The New Jersey Devils defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Nico Hischier #13 and Vitek Vanecek #41 of the New Jersey Devils celebrate the win over the Carolina Hurricanes after the game at Prudential Center on March 12, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey. The New Jersey Devils defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils found themselves in a must-win Game 3 scenario, just like in the first round of these NHL Playoffs. Instead of eking out a tightly-fought, tense overtime game as they did at MSG, these Devils exploded for eight goals to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes. Despite scoring just two goals in the first two games, the Devils offense helped them claw back into this series on Sunday afternoon.

Jack Hughes led the way with four points (2g-2a) and a semi-fight, while his brother 19-year-old brother Luke Hughes chipped in two assists in his NHL playoff debut – and just his third NHL game since his collegiate season ended about a month ago. Seven players had at least two points for New Jersey and 13 skaters had at least one point, plus goaltender Vitek Vanecek chipped in with the rare goalie assist.

Jack Hughes, Luke Hughes, New Jersey Devils
Jack Hughes #86 and Luke Hughes #43 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

“Really good,” Jack Hughes said of his brother’s playoff debut. “He showed why we have him here and why he’s in the lineup now. He can help us win. His skating, mobility, and the way he can move and transport the puck…he was in on two goals, too. It’s a really good start for him, but we know there’s still a lot more from him.”

The younger Hughes plays with confidence. That showed in just his third NHL game. He also showed his sense of humor in the postgame press conference where the brothers sat side-by-side when asked if he noticed anything different about Jack during their first playoff game together. “He got into a fight today, so that was new,” Luke said with a grin.

“That’s not a fight,” quipped Jack with a smirk on his face.

“Whatever that is,” Luke continued, “He’s a huge competitor, that showed today and every game in the playoffs.”

It was the perfect storm for the Devils and their young stars. During the two games in Carolina, their fourth line was their most productive line and had the team’s only goals in the series. In Game 3, in front of a ready-to-explode Prudential Center crowd, they all got in on the action.

Timo Meier started the party with the game’s opening goal at just 5:58 for his first point and goal of the postseason (nine games). Then Hughes doubled the lead five minutes later. By the 12:31 mark, Michael McLeod made it 3-0 for New Jersey with an end-to-end shorthanded goal.

53 seconds into period two, Nico Hischier netted his first playoff goal of the season, chasing Carolina netminder Fredrik Andersen from the crease. Sebastian Aho got the Canes’ first goal of the day at 1:07 after Hischier’s marker, and it looked like the visitors had a pulse. That was until Damon Severson scored a skillful goal that was assisted by both Hughes brothers. New Jersey gave up the rare shorthanded penalty shot goal late in the period, but when we got to the five-minute mark of the third period the Devils’ lead was up to 7-2 thanks to goals by Miles Wood and Hughes.

When Carolina scored two shorthanded goals in a span of 50 seconds to make it 7-4, there was a short delay at the Rock party, but Ondrej Palat’s power-play goal two minutes later sealed the deal in one of the wildest games you’ll ever see in the NHL playoffs.

Even defenseman Brendan Smith, who has now played four games since the start of April, registered an assist in the win – his first point since January 19.

“It’s all about adjustments and I thought we did a good job with that,” Smith told Pucks and Pitchforks after the game. “When we came into the room after the first period, we haven’t won anything, yet, and you have to come out and bring it for the next two periods. That was the message here, and I thought we did a good job of staying with it. There are a few areas that we’re going to work on, but a win is a win. It doesn’t matter if it was 1-0 or 8-4. This is the best time of the year.”

“You go on the road and you want to steal one (game in a series), and obviously it would be great to steal two,” said Smith. “That’s the goal and when you come up short, that’s tough. We did a good job of adjusting and pulling ourselves together and figuring out what we needed to do to win.”

The Devils left Carolina after Game 2 extremely disappointed with how things unfolded, falling into an 0-2 hole in the series and getting waxed in both games.

“I’m proud of the way we came out (today),” Hischier told us. “We’re behind 2-0 again, some tough games in Raleigh. We set the tone right from the beginning here. I’m proud, but now we have to win another home game.”

New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier (13): Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports /

“I’ve had a lot of chances (to score),” the Devils captain said through a laugh when asked about finally netting his first playoff goal of this season. “It definitely feels good to get that one out of the way. We’ve been in the situation before, we know it’s doable.”

The Devils have a remarkable record when their captain is on the scoresheet and on a lot of nights he is the tone-setter. He does so much great work defensively against the opponents’ top players and when he gets going offensively he usually gets points in bunches. After five points/assists against the Rangers Hischier finally recorded his first two points of this series in Game 3.

“We were disappointed and a little pissed off for sure,” Hischier said of the flight home after Game 2 and heading into Game 3 with a different mindset. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to steal a game there but we were pissed off and knew we needed to play better.”

“In the playoffs when you get the first goal, or two, or three, that’s huge for your energy. It’s huge. They did it to us in Carolina. It sucks after the first period being down 2-0 or 3-0,” added the Captain. “It’s not easy chasing down those goals to get back into those games. We did to them what they did to us in Carolina.”

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Now the Devils will need to do it all over again in Game 4 or else they will be facing elimination in Game 5 on Thursday night back in Carolina’s house of horrors. With Luke Hughes having passed his first playoff test you can be sure that he’ll be in the lineup for the foreseeable future.