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game recap

Butcher helps Devils top Avalanche

Rookie defenseman has three assists in win, Schneider makes 40 saves

by Mike G. Morreale / Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Rookie defenseman Will Butcher became the first player in New Jersey Devils history to score three points in his NHL debut in a 4-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche at Prudential Center on Saturday.

Butcher had three power-play assists. He signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Devils on Aug. 27 after becoming a free agent on Aug. 15 because he didn't sign with the Avalanche, who selected him in the fifth round (No. 123) of the 2013 NHL Draft.


[WATCH: All Avalanche vs. Devils highlights]


"I sat down with coaches and identified a role for myself," Butcher said. "I'm just here to fill my role and do my job the best I can whenever I'm on the ice."

Cory Schneider made 40 saves for the Devils in their season opener. Adam Henrique, Jimmy Hayes and Jesper Bratt scored power-play goals, and John Moore had a shorthanded goal. Butcher, Bratt, and Nico Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, each was making his NHL debut. Bratt had two points (one goal, one assist).

"It's hard to not smile, it was a great experience and lot of fun," Bratt said. "It was the best game of my life."

Hischier didn't have a point but had six shots on goal, two hits, one takeaway and was 4-for-9 on face-offs in 15:44 of ice time. 

"Nico is a player with a strong focus level; he's well aware of expectations but has an innate ability to concentrate on what matters most and that's preparing for his performance," Devils coach John Hynes said.

Forward Carl Soderberg scored and goaltender Jonathan Bernier made 35 saves for the Avalanche, who defeated the New York Rangers 4-2 in their opener Thursday.

Video: COL@NJD: Soderberg buries Jost's rebound for PPG

"[Bernier] gave us a chance to win," Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon said. "Him and [goalie Semyon Varlamov] have been great in the first two games of the season. It's up to us to play better in front of them."

Henrique gave the Devils a 1-0 lead after deflecting a shot from the point by Butcher 4:04 into the first period. Hayes made it 2-0 at 2:52 of the second.

Video: COL@NJD: Henrique tips home a power-play goal

The Avalanche pulled to within 2-1 when Soderberg controlled a rebound in the crease and took a snap shot that beat Schneider inside the right post.

Bratt, 19, scored his first NHL goal to give New Jersey a 3-1 lead with 28 seconds left in the second. Bratt, selected in the sixth round (No. 162) of the 2016 draft, assisted on Moore's goal at 14:00 of the third for a 4-1 lead. 

Devils forward Drew Stafford (lower body) was injured in the first period, and right wing Kyle Palmieri (lower body) left in the second. Hynes said each will be re-evaluated Sunday. 

Hischier came to the defense of Palmieri after he took a hit along the boards from defenseman Erik Johnson in the Avalanche zone late in the second period.

"I think when you have a player like him do that for a teammate, as a first-year guy in his first ever NHL game, its's really important," Hynes said. "It was nice to see."


Goal of the game

Bratt controlled the puck in his own end during an Avalanche power play, and skated down the left wing on a 2-on-1 with Blake Coleman before passing to Moore, who beat Bernier inside the left post.

Video: COL@NJD: Moore goes top shelf for shorthanded goal


Save of the game

With the Avalanche trailing 3-1, Bernier dove across the crease to rob defenseman Damon Severson of a goal 1:46 into the third period. The video review confirmed that Severson's shot did not cross the goal line.

Video: COL@NJD: Bernier stuns Severson with incredible stop


Highlight of the game

Bratt's goal came after taking a pass in the right circle from Taylor Hall before sweeping a shot past Bernier with his mother, Karin, and father, Conny, in attendance.

Video: COL@NJD: Bratt nets first goal, parents tear up


They said it

"The Devils lineup is similar to ours. We are all playing four or five young kids. They were certainly difference makers, helping out on the power play. They are getting some things done over there. For us, we like our young guys, too. The whole League is going that way." -- Avalanche coach Jared Bednar

"During the recruiting process with [Butcher] we had a need for a guy who can make those decisions and be able to run a power play. [Butcher] has gotten better and better in his decision-making and the way he uses time and space in playing at this level. It was nice to see him have the night he had in his first NHL game." -- Devils coach John Hynes


What's next

Avalanche: At the Boston Bruins on Monday (1 p.m. ET; SN1, NESN, ALT, NHL.TV)

Devils: At the Buffalo Sabres on Monday (3 p.m. ET; MSG-B, MSG, NHL.TV)


Video: Butcher produces three assists in Devils' 4-1 victory

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