NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The New Jersey Devils are playing so well this season, they're even winning when coach Lindy Ruff is unhappy with their game.
Jesper Bratt scored on a power play with 43 seconds left in overtime and the Devils beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 on Monday night after squandering a three-goal lead.
“I just think we got lucky,” Ruff said after the Devils improved to 9-1-1 in their last 11 games. “I think the last 10 minutes of the third period that it was all Vancouver. I’m not going to sugar-coat anything. They had two or three opportunities, they could have won the game. I feel like we got lucky.”
Not only did the Devils blow a 4-1 lead, they failed to convert on a 37-second two-man advantage in the third period after the Canucks tied the game 4-4. They needed another power play in overtime to improve to 9-4 in overtime this season.
New Jersey has gone to overtime six of the last seven games, winning five of them.
“We know we’re a really good hockey team now," said Jack Hughes, who scored his 34th and 35th goals of the season and set up Bratt's game winner. “We got a good squad so I mean, I don’t know if it’s adversity or anything like that. We just got to play the full 60 minutes and we’ve been doing it, but tonight was a little bit of an off night but we came out with the win.”
Ondrej Palat also scored two goals and Vitek Vanecek made 26 saves in winning his 10th straight game for New Jersey.
Andrei Kuzmenko, Luke Schenn, Curtis Lazar and Phillip Di Giuseppe scored for the Canucks, who were playing for the first time since trading captain and leading goal scorer Bo Horvat to the Islanders during the All-Star break for Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty and a conditional 2023 first-round pick.
“I thought we played a pretty darn good game on the road after the break," Canucks centre J.T. Miller said. “We had a lot of heart today, a lot of pride, character as a team. I think that’s a really good hockey team over there and we easily could have quit at 4-1.”
Collin Delia made 29 saves for Vancouver, but he had no chance on the one-timer by Bratt, who was set up by a cross-ice pass from Hughes. Delia had stopped Hughes on an overtime breakaway.
“I didn’t get a good read on it," Delia said of Bratt's 20th goal. “I need to beat that on my feet so I can get a sightline on it. I went to slide there and I didn’t see the release. He just beat me high glove.”
The Devils seemed to be in control when Palat twice scored and Hughes once in a 50-second span midway through the second period to stake New Jersey to a 4-1 lead.
The Canucks, who have worked hard for new coach Rick Tocchet, clawed their way back. Schenn scored on a point shot with 4:31 left in the second period and Lazar tallied in close with 27 seconds to go.
Di Giuseppe knotted the game at 4-4 at 6:02 on a 2-on-1 chance.
Kuzmenko gave the Canucks the lead 3:35 after the opening faceoff with a great move and shot. Hughes tied the contest, beating Delia with a backhander in close on a 1-on-1 chance.
The Devils won both games in the season series, posting a 5-2 decision in Vancouver in November. … Beauvillier skated on the Canucks top line with Elias Pettersson at centre and Andrei Kuzmenko on left wing. … Devils D John Marino played for the first time since Dec. 20. He missed 17 games with an upper body injury.
Canucks: Continue New York-area swing and face the Rangers on Wednesday night.
Devils: Play host to the Seattle Kraken on Thursday.
Tom Canavan, The Associated Press