BUFFALO, N.Y. — Jesper Boqvist scored the go-ahead goal with 11:15 remaining and the New Jersey Devils overcame the disappointment of having two key veteran forwards traded to beat the Buffalo Sabres 6-3 on Thursday night.
Pavel Zacha scored two power-play goals, and Jack Hughes snapped a 10-game scoring drought while adding two assists in a game the Devils rallied in after squandering a 3-1 first-period lead. Yegor Sharangovich and Janne Kuokkanen, who scored an empty-netter, had a goal and assist each.
Aaron Dell stopped 24 shots in making his third start of the season and pick up his first win in more than 14 months. Dell had gone 0-6-1 in eight appearances since he made 28 saves for San Jose in a 6-3 win at Edmonton on Feb. 6, 2020.
The win snapped the Devils 0-2-2 skid, and came a day after Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac were packaged in a trade to the New York Islanders for two draft picks, including a first-rounder, and two minor-league forwards.
Victor Olofsson, Jeff Skinner and Tage Thompson scored for Buffalo, which had gone 3-0-2 in its past five. Linus Ullmark finished with 32 saves in a game between two of the East Division’s worst teams, who are all but mathematically out of playoff contention.
The Devils recovered by erupting for a three-goal third period after allowing the Sabres to score twice in the second period to tie it at 3.
Michael McLeod set up the go-ahead goal by catching Sabres defenseman Brandon Montour flatfooted in chasing down a loose puck behind the Buffalo net. McLeod’s wrap-around attempt banked off Ullmark’s pad and into the slot, where Boqvist buried it inside the left post.
Though coach Lindy Ruff termed it as a “tough day” for the Devils as a result of the trade, he placed the onus on his young core of players to come out with energy and enthusiasm.
The youngsters responded after giving up Olofsson’s goal 53 seconds in. Zacha scored power-play goals 1:40 apart to put the Devils the lead at the 3:46 mark of the first period.
And then Hughes scored from the slot with 3:56 left in the opening period. A forechecking Sharangovich sparked the goal by forcing Buffalo’s Jacob Bryson to turn the puck over along the right boards.
Thompson, with a power-play goal, and Skinner scored over the final 8:04 of the second period to tie it at 3.
Devils captian Nico Hischier is nearing his return after missing his 22nd consecutive game with an upper-body injury. Hischier, who is still listed week to week, traveled with the Devils after resuming practice on Wednesday.
Sabres forward Taylor Hall, a former Devil, was a healthy scratch for a second consecutive game in anticipation the pending unrestricted free agent will be dealt before the NHL’s trade deadline on Monday. Hall signed a one-year, $8 million contract with Buffalo in free agency in October.