Takeaways From Devils’ 5-2 Victory vs. Penguins

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The New Jersey Devils earned their 36th win of the 2022-23 season after securing a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 18. Dawson Mercer, Dougie Hamilton, Nico Hischier, and Jesper Bratt found the back of the net with the team’s captain taking center stage with the first four-point night of his young career. Goaltender Vitek Vanecek extended his point streak to 13 games and has not suffered a regulation loss since Dec. 28.

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Forward Jack Hughes returned to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 6. The 21-year-old collected two assists playing on a line with Yegor Sharangovich and Jesper Bratt. Hughes now has 69 points in 51 games.

Here are some takeaways and observations from the Devils’ 21st road victory of the season.

Hischier Reaches Milestone

It might have taken him longer than he hoped, but Hischier finally scored his 100th NHL goal in his 354th career game. It was the first of two goals that the 24-year-old scored versus the Penguins snapping a nine-game goal drought. His milestone goal was the fourth-career shorthanded goal of his career, and when asked postgame, he credited Sharangovich.

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“I always try to do my best. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t,” Hischier said. “I had a little long stretch but Sharangovich made a great play. I just had to tap it in. … As soon as he pulled it on his backhand I kind of thought he might give it back right there. That’s what happened. A great move by him.”

Nico Hischier New Jersey Devils
Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

He added two assists as well earning the first four-point night of his career. Per media notes, it was the first time a Devils player earned four points in a game since Nov. 28, 2021 (Andreas Johnsson versus the Philadelphia Flyers). Hischier had new linemates in Pittsburgh in the form of Tomas Tatar and Dawson Mercer. The trio displayed instant chemistry and combined for seven points. The lineup change gave Hischier a spark and a night he will always remember.

“It’s a goal I’ll never forget. It’s something no one can take away from me,” Hischier said. “I’m pretty happy about it.”

The Devils are now 28-4-4 when Hischier records a point in a game this season.

Surprising Scratches in Pittsburgh

Say what you will, but head coach Lindy Ruff knows how to keep us on our toes. Jack Hughes’ return to the lineup meant one player would have to come out. Fans across the state hoped Miles Wood would be the odd one out, but Ruff surprised everyone by scratching Nathan Bastian. Since returning from injury, the 6-foot-4 forward has only recorded one assist in 10 games.

The bigger surprise of the night was Ruff’s decision to bench Jonas Siegenthaler to make room for Brendan Smith. The Zurich native has been utilized on the team’s top defensive pair along with Dougie Hamilton and emerged as one of the most underrated defensive defensemen in the league. On Feb. 16, the 25-year-old made the save of the game against the St. Louis Blues stopping the puck from crossing the goal line after it trickled past goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood.

After the game, media members asked New Jersey’s coach the reason behind the decision to bench Siegenthaler.

“It’s not about one player. It’s the fact that we feel the Devils have seven (defensemen) that can play,” Ruff said. “We know that we’ve got a real tough schedule ahead of us. When you look at the schedule it was an opportunity to get a fresh body in, and it might help Siegenthaler reset a little bit.”

Fans will have to wait until warmups tonight to see if Siegenthaler and Bastian draw back into the lineup. The Devils will look to win their sixth consecutive game at Prudential Center when they host the Winnipeg Jets at Prudential Center. Puck drop is set for 7:00 P.M. on MSG Networks.

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