NHL-leading Devils shut out struggling Chicago Blackhawks

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — While defenseman Dougie Hamilton had his first three-point game in three seasons, the New Jersey Devils didn't do anything different. They just kept on winning.

Hamilton had a goal and two assists, Vitek Vanecek made 24 saves for his second shutout and the NHL-leading Devils defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0 on Tuesday night for their 21st win in 26 games.

“It’s not just me, you know, like the team playing really good,” said Vanecek, who is now 12-2-1. “Honest, I’m happy I can be here. Everybody’s happy when we’re winning. It’s always fun so it’s not just me, it’s the team.”

Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt scored goals and Jack Hughes had two outstanding assists for the Devils, who are a league-best 21-4-1 despite losing their first two games.

Arvid Soderblom made 26 saves for the slumping Blackhawks, who are 1-9-1 in their last 11. They were also shut out by the New York Islanders 3-0 on Sunday.

Blackhawks defenseman Jack Johnson said the goaltending has been good all season. They are also getting chances to score, but not capitalizing. They had 23 goals in the last 11 games.

"You don’t have to be a hockey expert to know if you don’t score, you can’t win,” Johnson said.

Hamilton opened the scoring at 11:27 of the first period. He came off the bench, skated into the Blackhawks' zone, took a great cross-ice pass from Hughes and beat Soderblom from the left circle.

Devils coach Lindy Ruff said Hamilton could have scored two or three goals in the first period on his four shots.

“He made it really tough on Chicago on their coverage,” Ruff said. “But again, when we do that, and if we make a bad play, then all of a sudden the pucks going the other way, but part of that is our game, part of that was trying to create confusion. So really liked Doug’s game. He’s been solid all year.”

New Jersey broke the game open in the second period on the goals by Hischier and Bratt. Hischier's 11th goal came with Chicago about to be called for a delayed penalty, while Bratt's 10th came on a power play.

Hamilton got the secondary assist on both goals. The last time he had three points was on Dec. 17, 2019, against Winnipeg, when he had three assists for Carolina.

Hischier scored from the top of the right circle on a shot that Soderblom was screened on after he'd lost his stick.

Hughes, who now has a six-game point streak with six goals and four assists, made another cross-ice pass to find Bratt in the right circle for a one-timer to the top corner.

“We’re a team that wants to make a difference, we want to win and when we come in after a (first) period like that and we really bring the group together and we know how we need to play,” Hughes said.

NUMBERS

New York is 10-0-1 against the Western Conference and 19-1-1 when scoring three-goals. The team is 18-0-1 when Hischier earns a point. New Jersey has allowed one or fewer goals nine times, one more than they did all of last season.

SHORTHANDED

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was scratched after waking up with flu-like symptoms. With Toews out and Petr Mrazek being placed on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 3, Chicago recalled goaltender Jaxson Stauber and forward Lukas Reichel from Rockford of the AHL.

UP NEXT

Blackhawks: Return home to face Winnipeg on Friday.

Devils: Host the Islanders on Friday.

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AP NHL: https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://www.twitter.com/AP_Sports

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