Rookie Dawson Mercer and Damon Severson scored first-period goals and Jonathan Bernier made 27 saves, leading the New Jersey Devils to a 4-2 win over the expansion Seattle Kraken on Tuesday night.
The Devils won their second straight to start the season. Seattle slipped to 1-3-1 on its five-game road trip ahead of its much-anticipated home opener against Vancouver on Saturday night.
“We battled hard tonight, we had a push to get back,″ Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “We just ran out of time, ran out of gas.”
Jimmy Vesey added a goal and Pavel Zacha scored into an empty net with 20 second left to seal the win.
“I liked our ending,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “The way we played the third, we will win a lot of games. I thought we defended well.”
Riley Sheahan and Jared McCann scored for Seattle. Joey Daccord made 28 saves.
Mercer opened the scoring at 5:02 of the first, knocking the puck past Daccord, who was in net in place of expected starter Chris Driedger who was put on injured reserve after playing part of Monday’s 6-1 loss at Philadelphia. Tomas Tatar and Ryan Graves registered assists.
“It was great. I saw the saucer pass coming and it worked out in the end,″ Mercer said. “I took it all in.”
Ruff was happy for his rookie’s accomplishment.
“I’m really happy he got his first goal. He took advantage of a great play,” Ruff said. “He’s a very competitive young man. He likes playing the game.”
Severson made it 2-0 at 6:42 of the first with his first goal of the campaign, with assists going to Graves and Jack Hughes. Severson said he enjoyed the crowd’s enthusiasm throughout the game.
“Tonight was great from the puck drop, fantastic for the fans,” he said. “And we got the win.”
Hughes was ridden hard into the boards by Seattle defenseman Jeremy Lauzon shortly after New Jersey’s second goal and didn’t return. Devils forward Mason Geertsen fought Lauzon after the play.
“Emotions were running high,” Severson said. “We were standing up for ourselves.”
Ruff said Hughes was day-to-day and would be re-evaluated on Wednesday.
The Kraken cut the deficit to 2-1 on a goal by Sheahan midway through the second period. The former Penguins forward fired a rebound past Bernier at 10:05. Assists went to Adam Larsson and Vince Dunn.
Vesey restored the two-goal lead for the Devils at 14:48 of the second. Andreas Johnsson and Colton White assisted on Vesey’s first goal with New Jersey.
“He had a real good game for us,” Ruff said of Vesey, who won a job on a training camp tryout. “He put a lot into camp where there’s a lot of stress battling young players.”
Seattle appeared to make it a 3-2 with just over three minutes left in the second. But an apparent goal by Alex Wennberg was ruled to be offsides after a challenge by the Devils.
The Kraken cut the deficit to a goal, scoring on a 5-on-3 at 14:48 when McCann converted for his third goal of the season. Mark Giordano and Yanni Gourde assisted.
“We had pushback when we got down” said Giordano, the Kraken captain. “We just couldn’t find a way to get that extra goal. We have to find ways to generate more.”
The teams played a spirited first with the Devils dominating and outshooting and visitors 14-7. New Jersey had a power play in the closing seconds and Devils captain Nico Hischier tipped a shot past Daccord as time expired.
The contest had a feisty tone throughout.
Seattle’s Brandon Tanev fought New Jersey’s Michael McLeod 2:27 into the game in front of the team benches.
Ryan Donato of Seattle also had a scrap with Jonas Siegenthaler of New Jersey late in the middle period.
Former Islander Jordan Eberle had a breakaway 15 minutes into the first but was denied by Bernier.
Giordano said the page would quickly turn to the home opener in Seattle on Saturday. He also said his squad was looking to valuable practice time.
“Playing in front of family and friends in our building, it’s going to a be a special time,” he said. “Getting home and a week of practice is going to go a long way for this team.”
Seattle center Yanni Gourde, who won the Stanley Cup the past two years with the Tampa Bay Lightning, made his Kraken debut on a line with Jaden Schwartz and former Islander Jordan Eberle.
Seattle has eight players selected in the first round of the NHL Draft, six in the second round, two in the third round, three in the fourth round and one in each of the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds.
The Kraken scratched defensemen Will Borgen and Haydn Fleury, and forward Alex Barre-Boulet. Former Rangers player Colin Blackwell has yet to play a game for the Kraken because of a lower-body injury. Forward Calle Jarnkrok, who was in COVID protocol to start the season, also has yet to play a game for Seattle. … The Devils scratched forwards Frederik Gauthier and Marian Studenic and defenseman Christian Jaros.
Devils: Host Washington Capitals on Thursday night.
Kraken: Host Vancouver Canucks on Saturday in their home opener and the first game of a four-game homestand.