Devils ‘able to close gap’ on division lead after comeback against Hurricanes

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January 10, 2023;  Raleigh, North Carolina, United States;  New Jersey Devils left wing Jesper Bratt (63) hits the goal post behind Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov (52) and defenseman Brent Burns (8) during the second period at PNC Arena.

January 10, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, United States; New Jersey Devils left wing Jesper Bratt (63) hits the goal post behind Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov (52) and defenseman Brent Burns (8) during the second period at PNC Arena. / James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday night was a big game for the Devils.

After an emotional comeback win over the rival Rangers on Saturday, they had to head into Carolina to take on the Metropolitan Division leading Hurricanes. In fact, Carolina passed the Devils for the top spot a few weeks ago and New Jersey has been looking to take the lead ever since.

Tuesday’s 5-3 win went a long way toward doing that.

“That’s a big win for us to be down in the game and come back,” Dawson Mercer said. “It shows that we are never out of the game.”

The Devils were down 3-1 thanks to a couple of goals from the Hurricanes. But with less than a minute to go in the second period. Mercer and Jesper Boqvist scored 18 seconds apart to tie the game going into the third and final period.

“You can’t let that get to you. Whatever happens,” Mercer said of the defense allowing the two shortstops. “We really went for it and it ended in the game. We used that to our advantage. “

“It’s a group that just lives with it,” the Devils coach Lindy Ruff he said of his team’s potential to make a comeback this season. “Believing we can get back in, creating some chances. Most of the second period passed [the Hurricanes’] yes, we were on our heels, but we turned the corner in the last minute and it gave us a lot of momentum.”

That move led to Mercer’s second goal – the first multi-goal game of his career – and Nico Hischier grabbing an empty netter to seal the win and put the Devils within two points of the Hurricanes.

This is the fifth time the Devils have come back to win after being down multiple goals this season, the most in the NHL.

“You could see in the third period that we played one of the best third periods of the year,” Ruff said. “We didn’t give them a shot for a long time. Created some chances early and played well away from the puck. You have to give them credit for their second period and we played a helluva third period.”

“It’s never easy to play here in Carolina,” Jonas Siegenthaler said. “We never gave up and we came back at the end. We took the lead and defended the lead as well.”

With two big wins against division opponents behind them, the Devils will look to keep their momentum going as they head west to face the Ducks, Kings, Sharks and Kraken over the next week.

And while it’s unclear where the Devils and Hurricanes will stand after the New Jersey road trip ends, Tuesday’s win helped Ruff and his team keep the division crown in their sights.

“Any game before you leave when you’re playing a team in your conference is big,” Ruff said. “We knew we had to find some way to come back and I thought at the end of the second period that we did. They’re all four-point games when you’re playing a team ahead of you. We can close the gap.”

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