Dawson Mercer recorded his first career hat trick Tuesday night as the New Jersey Devils damaged the Pittsburgh Penguins' wild-card hopes by cruising to a 5-1 win in Newark, N.J
At 21 years and 159 days old, Mercer is the youngest Devils player to record a hat trick since Scott Gomez (20 years, three days) did so on Dec. 26, 1999
Dougie Hamilton and Timo Meier also scored for the Devils (49-21-8, 106 points), who entered Tuesday three points behind the first-place Carolina Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division. The Hurricanes beat the Ottawa Senators in overtime Tuesday night
New Jersey lengthened its lead over the idle third-place New York Rangers to five points.
Devils goalie Vitek Vanecek made 22 saves
Bryan Rust scored in the third for the Penguins (38-30-10, 86 points), who missed a chance to surpass the idle New York Islanders in the race for the first wild card in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh entered Tuesday one point ahead of the Florida Panthers, who beat the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday and now hold the first wild-card spot
Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry recorded 32 saves
Hamilton opened the scoring shortly before the midway point of the first period. Ondrej Palat skated around the back of the net and passed to Hamilton, whose shot from the right faceoff circle sailed over Jarry's glove at the 8:58 mark.
Mercer scored his first goal to cap a two-on-one rush with Nico Hischier just under six minutes later.
Meier, stationed next to Jarry in the crease, took a pass from Jack Hughes and beat Jarry for a five-on-three goal at the 2:54 mark of the second.
The Devils extended their lead to 4-0 in the final minute of the period. Jarry deflected a shot by John Marino but couldn't cover up the puck before Mercer put the rebound under the stick of Kris Letang and beyond Jarry with 34 seconds left
Mercer completed his hat trick in similar fashion 2:52 into the third, when Jarry turned back a pair of shots by Michael McLeod before Hischier sent a wraparound pass to Mercer, whose shot went into an open net.
Rust ended Vanecek's shutout bid at the 6:14 mark, when he redirected a shot by Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
--Field Level Media