NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Jesper Bratt scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period, MacKenzie Blackwood made 31 saves and the New Jersey Devils beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 on Thursday night for their fourth win in five games.
The teams will complete the home-and-home series Saturday night in Columbus.
Bratt took a pass from Jack Hughes — who had a goal and two assists — and whipped the puck past goalie Joonas Korpisalo on a power play at 1:16 for his 10th goal of the season. Nathan Bastian also assisted. The 23-year-old Bratt leads the Devils with 32 points, and has two goals and six assists in his last five games.
“Today was a total team effort,” said Bratt, a sixth-round pick by the Devils in 2016. ”Since the break we’ve been playing good hockey.”
Tomas Tatar also scored for New Jersey.
The Devils played without key forwards Yegor Sharangovich, Pavel Zacha and Andreas Johnsson because of COVID-19 protocol but were able to forge another victory as Blackwood made 17 saves in the first, seven in the second and seven more in third.
“I thought we got a great effort from out of Mackenzie,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. ”The first period, we weren’t running on all cylinders and he made some big saves for us to win that hockey game.”
Hughes added an empty-netter with 1:20 left, his ninth goal of the season.
“Jack has got himself on a roll,″ Ruff said. “He’s making a difference, making a lot of things happen offensively. He’s skating really well.”
Hughes has a five-game points streak, with four goals and eight assists. The first overall pick in the 2019 draft, Hughes has 20 points in 18 games this season.
“I’m in a good spot right now in terms of points,” Hughes said. “I’m shooting the puck, putting things towards the net. At the same time, I’m only 20. By the time I’m 25, I want to be a completely different player and much better.”
Max Domi scored for Columbus, and Korpisalo made 25 saves.
“He made some unbelievable saves,” Domi said of his netminder. “They have some dynamic players out there and Korpy came up big … We have to play better for him.”
The Blue Jackets lost their third straight, failing to score on four power-play chances.
“We had a good start. We played very simple, checked well and made the right plays at the right times,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “Then it got away from us … it’s just not good enough.”
Tatar opened the scoring for the Devils 51 seconds into the game, tapping the puck past Korpisalo for his eighth goal of the season. Domi tied it at 4:54 of the first with his eighth goal.
The Blue Jackets had five games postponed between Dec. 18 and Dec. 28 because of COVID-19 issues and have played just four games since Dec. 16.
“There’s a ton of try. At some point you have to play with some poise,” Larsen added. “We have to get better. We are going to chip at it one situation at a time.”
Columbus forward Jakub Voracek played his 1,000th career game. The 32-year-old Voracek was drafted seventh overall by Columbus in 2007 and played his first three NHL seasons for the Blue Jackets before he was traded to Philadelphia where his skated for 10 seasons. He re-joined the Blue Jackets in a trade last July in which the Flyers received Cam Atkinson.
NOTES: Blue Jackets defenseman Jake Christiansen made his NHL debut … The Devils scratched defenseman Mason Geertsen and goaltender Jon Gillies…. New Jersey defenseman Dougie Hamilton was placed on the injured list retroactive to Jan. 2 after suffering a broken jaw taking that day against Boston … The Blue Jackets scratched forward Alexandre Texier, defenseman Gabriel Carlsson and goaltender Elvis Merzlikins.