VANCOUVER — In time Quinn Hughes will appreciate the experience more.
But moments after a heart-wrenching 6-5 loss to the New Jersey Devils Tuesday night, the Vancouver Canucks defenceman wasn’t savouring the experience of playing against his two brothers.
“It's bittersweet right now,” he said. “I’m sure they’re appreciating it more than I am right now.”
Jesper Bratt scored his second goal of the night with 34 seconds left in the third period to give the Devils the nail-biting NHL victory.
The game was billed as the “Hughes Bowl” as Quinn Hughes faced his brothers centre Jack and defenceman Luke of the Devils.
Jack Hughes had a goal and two assists, one of them on a power-play goal by his younger brother Luke.
“I always enjoy playing Quinn and seem to have good games in Vancouver against him,” said Jack. “It was a nice win and pretty fun to play with both my brothers.”
As important as the win was, one of the night’s highlights for Luke Hughes was having his picture taken with his brothers in the pre-game warm-ups.
“It was pretty cool,” said the youngest of the three. “I haven’t really let it sink in yet. I haven’t seen him for a couple months. Hanging out has been great and it’s nice we got the win.”
Parents Jim Hughes and Ellen Weinberg-Hughes were at Rogers Arena for the game.
Erik Haula and Michael McLeod also scored for the Devils (12-10-1).
J.T. Miller had a power-play goal and an assist for the Canucks (16-9-1). Brock Boeser, with his NHL leading 18th of the year, Nils Hoglander, Sam Lafferty and Dakota Joshua also scored for Vancouver. Elias Pettersson had two assists for the Canucks who are 1-8-2 in their 11 games against the Devils.
Vancouver goaltender Thatcher Demko stopped 26 shots, while New Jersey’s Vitek Vanecek had 28 saves.
The Canucks fell behind 4-1 early in the first period and trailed 5-2 heading into the third. Vancouver battled back to tie the game on Hoglander’s goal with 3:26 remaining. Quinn Hughes earned assists on the Canucks last two goals.
Bratt won the game when he put in the rebound of a shot through traffic.
“It shows how strong we are as a group that we believe in ourselves,” said Bratt. “We knew it was possible to make a difference and come away with the two points.”
Canucks coach Rick Tocchet said the winning goal was an example of what his team did wrong all night long.
“I still don’t understand where our guys were going on that play,” said an exasperated Tocchet. “You can blame all five guys on the ice for that.”
Jack Hughes said he watches a lot of Canucks games.
“I have a pretty good read on how they play,” he said. “I think what happened was we got to play our game early and they had to take a few chances.”
Luke Hughes praised his team’s efforts.
“It was a good resilient win,” he said. “We played simple, getting pucks north and letting our skilled forwards do the work.”Miller was frustrated by some sloppy defence and a power-play that managed just one goal and eight shots on four chances.
“The power play is not where we need it right now,” said Miller. “We’re not sharp.
“That was a game were the power play could have saved our ass. It’s just disappointing.”
Devils coach Lindy Ruff said the two Hughes brothers are important cogs on the Devils.
“We know that Jack can generate and we know what Luke can do from the back end,” he said. “I thought Jack’s line helped get us going.”
It was the ninth time in NHL history three brothers played in the same game. The last time was April 13 when Eric and Marc Staal of the Florida Panthers faced Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes. … Defenceman Nikita Zadorov, obtained from the Calgary Flames in a trade Thursday, made himself known in his game with the Canucks by laying a bone-rattling hit on the Devils Curtis Lazar in the first period. … Defencemen Quinn Hughes and Flip Hronek are the fastest Canucks to each record 25 points in a season, reaching the mark in 25 games. Jiri Bubla and Rick Lanz each had 25 points in 33 games in 1983-84. … The game marked the return of Travis Green who was fired Dec. 5, 2021, after four years as Vancouver’s head coach. He is now an associate coach with the Devils. … As part of First Nations celebration night, 20 youth from the Simpcw First Nation in Barriere, B.C., attended the game. … A fan proposing to his girlfriend was shown on the big screen during the second period. She said yes.
The Canucks host Minnesota on Thursday and Carolina on Saturday.
The Devil continue their four-game western road trip with games in Seattle Thursday, Calgary Saturday and Edmonton Sunday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2023.
Jim Morris, The Canadian Press