NEWARK, N.J. — Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher set up three power-play goals to steal the spotlight from No. 1 overall draft pick Nico Hischier, and the new-look New Jersey Devils opened the season with a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.
Adam Henrique, Jimmy Hayes, rookie Jesper Bratt and John Moore scored as the Devils started eight players who were not with the team last year, when they posted the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Kyle Palmieri added two assists before leaving in the second period with a leg injury. Cory Schneider made 40 saves.
Carl Soderberg scored for Colorado, a second after a power play expired. Jonathan Bernier was outstanding making 35 saves for the Avs, who opened their season on Thursday with a win over the Rangers.
While Butcher became the first player in franchise history to get three assists in his first game, Hischier was the player the crowd at the Prudential Center wanted to see. He was hailed as a conquering hero in pre-game introductions, and the first time he stepped on the ice there were chants of “Nico” for the 18-year-old Swiss centre.
The kid didn’t disappoint despite not picking up a point. He skated well, had six shots on goal and forced Bernier to make a good save on a snap shot and another in close coming out of the circle. Hischier made some nifty passes that were not converted both on even strength and the power play.
Butcher, who signed with the Devils after failing to reach an agreement with the Avalanche, helped get the Devils on the board at 4:04 with a shot from the left point that Henrique tipped past Bernier.
Haynes made 2-0 early in the second period, stuffing Palmieri’s shot off the end boards past Bernier. Bratt connected from the right circle after taking a cross-ice pass from Taylor Hall. Butcher had the secondary assist on both goals.
Soderburg had cut the Devils lead to 2-1, scoring on a rebound in close.
Moore’s short-handed goal to end the scoring was set up by Bratt.
NOTES: The Devils scratched D Ben Lovejoy, who played in all 82 games last season. … LW Matt Nieto picked up six minutes in penalties in Colorado’s opener. He was scratched on Saturday. … Palmieri was hurt after being kneed by Avalanche defenceman Erik Johnson along the boards. … Devils captain Andy Greene missed the final half of the second period but returned for the third.