NEWARK, N.J. — Not only didn’t the New Jersey Devils have leading scorer Jack Hughes for the first time this season, coach Lindy Ruff also gave red-hot goaltender Vitek Vanecek the night off.
Mackenzie Blackwood made 34 saves filling in for Vanecek and the Devils’ power play picked up the slack with Hughes out as New Jersey rolled to hits 10th win in 12 games (10-1-1) on Thursday night.
Dougie Hamilton scored two power-play goals, fellow defenseman John Marino added an empty-net tally and Ondrej Palat had two assists as the Devils posted a 3-1 victory over the Seattle Kraken.
“The desperation in the game was great,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “You look at some of the opportunities ahead and the way the guys laid out the body, if you’re going to win games you’ve got to have some desperation and I thought that desperation was great.”
Blackwood was the outstanding in making only his fifth start since Dec. 23.
“I liked where my game was at and I liked the way it was building,” Blackwood said after improving to 7-4-2 this season. “I guess this is just a reward for sticking with it.”
The difference overall was the power play. New Jersey was 2 of 4 with the extra man and Seattle was 0 for 3, including a two-man advantage for more than a minute early in the second period.
“The ultimate difference at the end of the day is they were able to run their power play,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said, adding he was pleased with the number of chances his team had.
The power-play goals were the first given up by Seattle in nine games. It had gone a franchise-record eight straight games, killing off 18 straight power plays.
Defenseman Adam Larsson scored for Seattle and goaltender Philipp Grubauer made 24 saves in losing to New Jersey for the first time in six career decisions.
Hamilton’s game winner came with 10 minutes to play. His shot from near the blue line was deflected by Brandon Tanev, and Grubauer never had a chance.
Hughes, who leads the Devils with 35 goals and 32 assists, is being listed as week to week with an upper-body injury. He played Monday in a win over Vancouver.
“He’s pretty much carrying us, so huge loss for us,” Hamilton said. “I think you could tell with our team it was a little different, but we need guys to step up and we had that tonight. we know it’s going to be a hard stretch ahead and we’re going to have to keep playing well.”
There were two goals in the first two periods, and they came 24 seconds apart.
Larsson, a first-round pick of the Devils in 2011, opened the scoring for Seattle at 14:05 of the second period with a shot from the right point that hit the stick of New Jersey forward Miles Wood.
“We’re not happy with the game in Long Island,” Larsson said of a 3-0 loss to the Islanders on Tuesday. “I thought today we responded good. We were good enough to win today. Sometimes you fall short.”
Hamilton tied the game at 14:29 with a straight-on shot from just above the top of the circles for his 14th goal. It came seven seconds after Kraken defenseman Will Borgen was penalized.
The Kraken also played without their top scorer. Andre Burakovsky is week to week with a lower-body injury sustained earlier this week.
NOTES: Hamilton now has a career-high 51 points, one more than he had with Calgary in 2016-17. With Hughes sidelined, Erik Haula centered the second line for Yegor Sharangovich and Fabian Zetterlund, and Dawson Mercer moved from the wing to center the third line. ... The Devils also scratched D Brendon Smith with an injury. ... Seattle activated D Justin Schultz off the IL earlier in the day. F Daniel Sprong got a spot in the lineup with Burakovsky out.
Kraken: Finish New York-area swing playing the Rangers on Friday night. It’s part of a five-game trip.
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