“We always try to be a playoff team,” New Jersey Devils interim coach Lindy Ruff said Sunday before the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
A look at the Metropolitan Division table reveals that the Devils should prove their qualities in the playoffs within a few months. With a record of 30-12-4 and 64 points after 46 games, they are second to the Metropolitan, just two points behind the Carolina Hurricanes and 13 points clear of first place non-playoff.
The Devils have proven once again that they are capable of winning close games. They beat the Penguins (23-15-8, 54 points) 2-1 after overtime at the Prudential Center in Newark.
Dougie Hamilton scored after 127 seconds in overtime, on a pass from Nico Hischier and Jack Hugheswith a majority the winning goal for the home team.
“We let the puck go and I just found space there and hoped to get the puck. Then I just pulled it. It’s quite difficult to beat a keeper from so far, so I tried to shoot as hard as I could and I’m glad he came in,’ said the goalscorer, delighted with his goal which gave the extra point to the Devils.
In the seventh game in a row, the Devils took scores (6-0-1) and lost just one of their ten appearances in the 2023 calendar year (7-1-2).
In their first home game after a 14-day away tour, they gave their fans a lot of joy not only late in the game, but also early on. Just 56 seconds had passed when Hughes, coming from his own end, fired a shot from the right face-off circle and hit the nearest corner to take a 1-0 lead. The Pittsburgh Defense Attorney Brian Dumoulin covered his goalkeeper Tristan Jarry view.
It was Hughes’ 30th goal of the season. The 21-year-old (21 years, 253 days) became the second player in Devils history to reach 30 goals in a season before his 22nd birthday. The first Devils player to achieve this feat was Brendan Shanahan (21 years, 65 days) more than three decades ago on March 29, 1990. When the organization was still called the Colorado Rockies and was based in Denver, they had Paul Gardner (1976/77, 1977/78) and Wilf Payment (1976/77) scoring their first two U22-30 goals.
Hughes, a native of Orlando, Florida, has scored 30 goals in just 46 games. He reached the mark as the third fastest player behind Gardner (44 games in 1977/78) and Claude Lemieux (45 games in 1991/92). The last Devils player to need less than 60 games for 30 goals was Zach Parise in 2008/09 (52 games).
A good playoff team doesn’t just need a goalscorer, but also a compact defense and a keeper who doesn’t lose his cool. This part currently takes Vitek Vanecek the one that also differed from the first goal conceded by Sydney Crosby to make it 1-1 in the 7th minute and finished the game with 25 saves.
With Vanecek in the box, the Devils have won seven straight. He’s the Devils’ first goalie with a seven-game winning streak since Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg in 2010-11.
“It’s seven wins, but I try not to think about it when I go on the ice. I only play one game and I focus on that,” explained the 27-year-old Czech.
The coach was completely satisfied with his team’s play.
“We had a good road trip (4-0-1) and it was the first of four games in six days. I think we played the game in the right way. We didn’t have many chances of the opponent and we gave ourselves a chance to win,” explained Ruff.
Even before the match, the experienced coach had unveiled the recipe for success.
“You always have to know how to stop the best players of an opposing team. If you take them out of the game, then the opponent’s chances are also limited,” he said.
The Devils play their next home game Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NHL.tv; Wednesday 1:30 a.m. CET) against the Vegas Golden Knights. They then embark on a journey to the Nashville Predators (8 p.m. ET; NHL.tv; Friday 2 a.m. ET) and the Dallas Stars (8:30 p.m. ET; NHL.tv; Saturday 2:30 a.m.). .THIS).
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