NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Jack Hughes scored on power play early in the third period and Vitek Vanecek made 24 saves for his first shutout with New Jersey in the Devils’ 1-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.
The Devils won for the fifth time in six games after dropping the first two games of the season. New Jersey also denied defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado’s NHL-best power play six times.
”Honestly, it was really good game. The guys played really well and we just scored the goal,” said Vanecek, who won his first contest with the Devils 6-2 on Tuesday night in Detroit. ”That felt really good and now a home game, so I’m really happy with that.”
Hughes scored his third of the season on the power play at 2:59 of the third, shooting the puck past Pavel Francouz. Assists went to Jesper Bratt and Dougie Hamilton. The assist was a team-leading 10th for Bratt who has points in all eight Devils games this season and leads New Jersey with 13 points. Francouz made 22 saves.
”It was a great game by both clubs. It felt like a playoff game,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. ”This was the right team to play at the right time. We blocked shots. There was a lot of good stuff tonight.”
The Devils appeared to open the scoring with just over five minutes left in the first period but an apparent goal by Miles Wood was nullified when the play was deemed offsides on review.
New Jersey outshot the visitors 8-4 in the opening period. In the second, the Avalanche had a 10-7 shots advantage over the home team as both goaltenders made sterling saves to keep the scoreless game intact.
”We just didn’t have jump,” Avalanche forward Evan Rodrigues said. ”We didn’t get enough odd-man rushes.”
The Avalanche were coming off 3-2 shootout win over Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday in which former Rangers netminder Alexandar Georgiev was the winner in his return.
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar was impressed with the new-look Devils who are showing promise after missing the playoffs the past four seasons.
”They have great team speed, good skill,” Bednar said. ”Give them credit, their PK is really good.”
Vanecek also denied Colorado forward Dryden Hunt in the second on a point-blank shot from between the faceoff circles.
The 26-year-old netminder, who had six shutouts with the Washington Capitals prior to this season, made a dazzling pad save on Rodrigues midway through the third and foiled a one-timer by Arturi Lehkonen with just over eight minutes left. He made 10 saves in the third.
”He made the big save when we needed it. That lifts the whole bench,” Ruff said about Vanecek’s save on Rodrigues. ”And our penalty killers did a great job. We limited their key players.”
Avalanche leading scorer Valeri Nichushkin did not play Friday because of a lower-body injury.
Following their game Saturday night against the Islanders at UBS Arena, the Avalanche will fly to Finland, where they will play the Columbus Blue Jackets twice next weekend.
”We had too many turnovers and we didn’t do enough to win the hockey game,” Bednar added. ”Tonight we just didn’t have the jam.”
NOTES: The Devils scratched forwards Alexander Holtz, Ondrej Palat and defenseman Kevin Bahl … Colorado also scratched defenseman Kurtis MacDermid.
Devils: Host Columbus on Sunday.
Avalanche: At New York Islanders on Saturday night.