RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)Dawson Mercer’s first two-goal game in the NHL came at an ideal time for the New Jersey Devils.

His offense helped the Devils overcome allowing two short-handed goals and gave them a 5-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.

”I’m an offensive player, but I like playing defense and playing that two-way game,” said Mercer, a first-round draft pick in 2020. ”To help contribute out there and get this big win is a huge thing for me and I want to make sure I can keep it going.”

Mercer gave New Jersey its first lead of the game at 8:53 of the third period on his 10th goal of the season. Mercer, playing in his 123rd NHL game, also had an assist.

The Devils began a five-game trip by winning for the third time in four games. They also closed the gap on the first-place Hurricanes in a game marking the midway mark of the season for the top two teams in the Metropolitan Division.

”We played one of our best third periods of the year,” New Jersey coach Lindy Ruff said.

Jonas Siegenthaler, Jesper Boqvist and Nico Hischier also scored for New Jersey, with Hischier’s empty-netter coming with 55 seconds left. Michael McLeod had two assists.

Goalie Vitek Vanecek made 25 saves for his fourth win in a row.

”We never quit,” Siegenthaler said. ”It’s not always easy to make a comeback.”

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Max Pacioretty and Sebastian Aho scored for the Hurricanes, who lost their fourth straight game (0-3-1) and surrendered a two-goal lead in the last minute of the second period. Pyotr Kochetkov made 17 saves.

”They got the one (in the third) and then they didn’t give us much,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. ”We should have got more out of those first two periods.”

The Devils didn’t flinch when falling behind, even with the shorthanded goals allowed.

”When we had our opportunities, we took advantage of it. . You can’t let that get to your head,” Mercer said. ”All we can do is make sure we change that and keep pushing.”

Mercer’s first goal came with 52 seconds left in the second period when he got the puck past Kochetkov despite the presence of three other Carolina players in the area. Boqvist’s fourth goal of the season came 18 seconds later.

”That last minute killed us, there’s no doubt,” Brind’Amour said. ”But we didn’t respond in the third.”

Pacioretty’s third goal in three games since joining the lineup came when he pursued the puck behind the net and knocked the puck off Devils center Yegor Sharangovich at 8:50 of the second period.

Aho’s 13th goal later in the period gave Carolina two shorthanded tallies.

Kotkaniemi’s seventh goal of the season began the scoring with the first shorthanded goal of his career. Teammate Martin Necas did a bulk of the work, winning a faceoff and collecting the puck to deliver a pass to Kotkaniemi.

Siegenthaler’s second goal of the season came on a shot from the left side, with the puck slipping between the post and Kochetkov’s pad. Kochetkov was trying to notch his first win since Dec. 20, though it was just his third appearance since then because he missed time with an injury.

ICE MATTERS

New Jersey is 8-1-1 when its opponents have more shots this season. . The Hurricanes had two shorthanded goals in a game for the first time since April 2021. . Pacioretty is the fourth player in franchise history with three goals in his first three games. One of the others is Erik Haula, who played for the Devils on Tuesday night. . The Devils improved to 1-1-1 in three meetings with Carolina. The teams meet for the final time March 12 in New Jersey.

UP NEXT

Devils: At Anaheim on Friday.

Hurricanes: At Columbus on Thursday.

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