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Devils beat Blackhawks, sixth win in eight games

CHICAGO (AP) – Dawson Mercer and Max Willman on Sunday night scored in the first period and the New Jersey Devils beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2.

Curtis Lazar and Michael McLeod also scored as the Devils won for the sixth time in eight games. Vitek Vanecek stopped 32 shots for his sixth win in eight starts.

“We did not start well at all,” Lazar said. “We took it upon ourselves to say enough’s enough. We simplified our game. As the game went on, we generated more looks.”

Taylor Hall and Ryan Donato scored for Chicago, which lost for the fifth time in seven games. Arvid Soderblom finished with 36 saves.

Lazar tipped John Marino’s drive in the slot and the puck eluded Soderblom to push the Devils’ lead to 3-2 at 4:35 of the third period.

“He’s my son’s favourite player,” Lazar said of Marino. “He’s going to be a happy camper.”

Donato pulled the Blackhawks back within one as he scored on his second rebound with 4:46 left.

Vanecek had a big stop on Phillipp Kurashev with 1:12 remaining, and McLeod’s empty-netter in the final second sealed the Devils’ win.

“We started a little slow, but after that were all right,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “We knew we were going to have to do the little things right.”

Hall opened the scoring for Chicago 1:51 into the game, his second tally in two games after coming back from an injury. Hall pounded home a rebound of Tyler Johnson’s point shot.

Mercer tied score with a power-play wrist shot past Soderblom’s glove side with 6:53 left in the first period after skating in from left wing with Chicago defenseman Connor Murphy off for interference. It was the 18th goal of the season in 11 games for New Jersey’s top-ranked power play.

“We really stepped it up in the second and third period,” Mercer said. “And Vanecek really came up strong for us tonight.”

Willman, recalled from Utica of the AHL on Saturday, made it 2-1 on a breakaway after Chicago defenseman Kevin Korchinski lost the puck at the Devils’ blue line. Willman sped away from the rookie and slid the puck between Soderblum’s feet with 5:19 remaining in the opening period.

“Fatigue really showed in our game today, in decision making and overall sloppy play,” Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson said. “We got a little bit careless with the puck.”`

The Devils held Chicago rookie Connor Bedard off the board, stopping the No 1 draft pick’s goal-scoring streak at three games.

The Devils were without star centres Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. Hughes was recovering from an upper-body injury incurred against St Louis on Friday and Hischier missed his fourth game after getting checked in the head by Buffalo’s Connor Clifton on October 27.

The Blackhawks held a 20-minute players only meeting after the game to sort out their woes.

“We’re all accountable,” defenceman Seth Jones said. “If you make a mistake, teammates can tell you you’re wrong and vice-versa. It’s just the little details.”

New Jersey Devils goaltender Vitek Vanecek (left) celebrates with defenceman Dougie Hamilton (right) after they defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in an NHL hockey game in Chicago, Sunday. PHOTO: AP
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