BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt each had a goal and two assists to help the New Jersey Devils end their six-game losing streak with a 4-3 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.
Hughes’ sixth goal of the season gave New Jersey a 3-2 lead in the third period after a failed Sabres clearing attempt led to a rebound from a shot by Yegor Sharangovich, who scored 2:22 later to make it 4-2.
“You need your best players to make a difference for you and Jack made a difference for us,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “I know it was a three-point night, but he could’ve been in on a couple more opportunities. We count on him for a lot.”
Bratt’s goal gave the Devils a 2-0 edge in the first after a power-play goal from Dougie Hamilton opened the scoring.
“We want to be a leading line and every time we’re on the ice we want to create scoring chances. We want to be a line that brings a lot of energy to the team,” Bratt said about playing with Hughes and Sharangovich.
The Devils returned from the holiday break minus Tomas Tatar and Jimmy Vesey, who are in COVID-19 protocol, for their first game since a 3-2 home loss to Pittsburgh on Dec. 19.
“We were in a pretty big hole there (losing six straight), so for us to get a few days just to refresh and come back to the rink excited, it’s a big deal,” Hughes said. “I think we were all pretty excited coming back and then to start it off with a win, that’s huge for us.”
It was the first game in 12 days for the Sabres after four straight postponements. They were without six players and head coach Don Granato, who was placed in COVID-19 protocol on Sunday. Buffalo returned to the ice for the first time since a 3-2 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Dec. 17.
“Looking back on some of the games that we’ve had success as a group, we’ve been able to find that rhythm and play a certain way,” Sabres assistant coach Matt Ellis said. “Tonight, it felt a little bit off. But the battle level was there, the compete was certainly there.”
Tage Thompson scored twice in the second period for the Sabres, giving him a team-leading 12 goals. They were Thompson’s first goals in 10 games.
“If I wasn’t getting chances every game, then that would be a little different story,” Thompson said. “You can’t get too low or too high when things are going well. So just keep working and eventually they’ll come. They come in waves.”
Buffalo defenseman Ethan Prow also scored in his NHL debut.
Mackenzie Blackwood made 20 saves for his first win since Dec. 8.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 38 shots for Buffalo.
Forwards Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs, both acquired in the Jack Eichel trade with Vegas, made their Sabres debuts. Tuch was activated from injured reserve. They joined rookie forward JJ Peterka and Prow, who made their NHL debuts.
Vesey was placed on the COVID-19 protocol list, and Devils forwards Marian Studenic and Jesper Boqvist were recalled from the team’s taxi squad.
The Sabres placed defenseman Jacob Bryson on the COVID-19 protocol list and recalled Prow from the team’s taxi squad. Buffalo was also without defensemen Robert Hagg and Colin Miller due to injuries.