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Jack Hughes scores 2, Devils pass Rangers to stop skid


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Jack Hughes scored twice and the New Jersey Devils scored five second-period goals — four in six minutes — to erase an early deficit and beat the New York Rangers 7-4 on Tuesday night.

Nico Daws made 31 saves for the Devils, who snapped an eight-game losing streak against rival Rangers. Ryan Graves, PK Subban, Dawson Mercer, Tomas Tatar and Yegor Sharangovich also scored as New Jersey bombed Igor Shesterkin for five goals on 13 shots midway through the period.

Shesterkin had allowed two or fewer goals in 11 of his last 14 starts. Alexandar Georgiev replaced the usually unflappable Rangers starter to start the third.

“We just weren’t very sharp mentally,” said Rangers coach Gerard Gallant. “I don’t blame the goalkeeper, as good as he has been this season.”

Shesterkin made 19 saves and Georgiev, who shut out first-place Carolina on Sunday night, stopped five shots in third. He allowed Hughes’ 20th goal — and 100th career point — at 9:36 on the power play before the 20-year-old forward scored again at 10:46.

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New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes (86) is congratulated by teammates after scoring his second third period goal against the New York Rangers during an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 22, 2022 in Newark , NJ The Devils won 7-4 .
(AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

There were significant cheers from fans of both teams at the Prudential Center amid the deluge of goals.

“It was a great win in front of our fans against a huge rival,” said Hughes, the Devils’ first overall pick in the 2019 draft, who has 49 points this season. “We have great supporters and so do they.”

It was the third seven-goal outburst this season for the Devils, who had lost four of their last five games, including all three on a trip to Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

“The strength of our team is our speed. We were playing too slow and then we started moving the puck well,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “The sign of a good team is to bounce back.”

Mika Zibanejad opened the scoring for Rangers 7:10 from the first, netting his 26th goal of the season past Daws. Chris Kreider and Alexis Lafrenière attended.

Adam Fox made it 2-0 at 13:55 with his 10th goal, assisted by Zibanejad. The Norris Trophy-winning defender has scored in nine of his last 12 games.

After outscoring the Devils 14-11 in the first, the Rangers dominated the second before Graves broke through for New Jersey at 7:12. Subban tied the game with his fifth goal at 8:30.

Mercer gave the Devils a 3-2 lead at 12:40 before Tatar scored his 12th at 13:13. New Jersey was even denied a goal for offside following a replay challenge from Rangers before Sharangovich extended the cushion to 5-2 with his 16th at 18:07.

Mercer continued his strong rookie campaign with his 16th goal in his first regular season home game against the Rangers.

“It’s exciting when Rangers come here. Finally, make him feel good,” he said of Shesterkin’s resolve, at least for one night. “We just gotta keep grinding,”

Devils leading scorer Jesper Bratt had two assists, as did Graves and captain Nico Hischier.

Bratt became the first Devils skater with 60+ points and 40 or more assists in a season since Taylor Hall in 2017-18. Bratt leads the team with 62 points.

Daws improved to 7-6-0 this season.

“He kept his cool,” Ruff said of the 21-year-old German-born goaltender, one of six goaltenders the Devils have used this season. “He was pretty cool. It was a very important victory.”

The Rangers have won the previous two meetings this season, both at Madison Square Garden, 4-3 in a shootout on Nov. 14 and 3-1 on March 4.

The young Devils are 23-35-5 this season. They’ve only made the playoffs once since 2012, in 2018.

“We have to treat this like our playoffs to gauge where we can be as an offensive group,” Ruff said. “Tonight we highlighted our transition game. Sometimes the puck doesn’t come to you. Tonight it came right at us.”

The Rangers, who fell to 40-19-5, had won five straight at Newark since Nov. 30, 2019. In those games, New York beat New Jersey 24-7.

Three of the players acquired by Rangers on Monday made their debuts for the team — forwards Andrew Copp and Tyler Motte, and defender Justin Braun. Copp had two assists.

Ryan Strome scored his 15th goal for New York at 3:46 of the third before Kreider completed the scoring with his 42nd power-play goal at 14:56.

“We had a good first and then we fell asleep at the wheel,” said Kreider, who leads the NHL with 22 power-play goals. “They jumped on our turnovers. The majority of the game is mental. We stopped playing simple.”

FEWER TRAVEL TO COME

The Rangers played their 35th road game of the season, most in the NHL. They will play all but one of their remaining 19 games against Eastern Conference opponents. April 19 against Winnipeg at home is the only exception.

NOTES: Rangers fell to 25-4-2 when they scored first. … Zibanejad needs a point for 500 in his career. … The rivals across the river meet once again this season, on April 5 in New Jersey. … The Devils have dismissed defenseman Colton White and forward Pavel Zacha. … Rangers dismissed defenders Braden Schneider and Libor Hajek as well as forwards Greg McKegg, Julien Gauthier and Jonny Brodzinski. They also continued to be without injured forwards Kevin Rooney and Kaapo Kakko.

FOLLOWING

Rangers: Host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.

Devils: Visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night


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