CHICAGO -- - Dougie Hamilton, Erik Haula, Jesper Boqvist and Timo Meier each had a goal and an assist and the New Jersey Devils beat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-3 on Saturday night for their second straight victory.
Ryan Graves also scored and Dawson Mercer added a empty-netter for the Devils. They have 104 points, one behind first-place Carolina in the Metropolitan Division. New Jersey's leading scorer, 21-year-old Jack Hughes, added two assists.
Longtime Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews returned from two-month medical leave of absence.
The 34-yeare-old Toews took the opening faceoff for Chicago as he appeared in a game for the first time since Jan. 28 at Edmonton. He set up Athanasiou's goal in the third period.
"Definitely finding my way a little bit," Toews said. "I think the first period was rough. That's a fast team, a fast game."
Toews made a statement through the team Feb. 19 saying he would be stepping away because of the effects of Chronic Immune Response Syndrome and "long COVID."
Toews was back on the ice with teammates in a practice session on Tuesday, but didn't commit to returning this season and hinted at retirement. His eight-year, $84 million contract is set to expire at the end of the season.
The Blackhawks stayed close into the second period. Then the speedy Devils picked up the pace late in the second to take the lead and pull away.
New Jersey has started slow and finished with flash before, coach Lindy Ruff said.
"We've had a lot of games when the first period hasn't been our quickest, we haven't played our quickest," Ruff said. "We gained a lot of momentum in that second period and carried it into the third.
"It's one area that I'd like our team to improve in, is its mentality in the first 10 minutes of a game."
"Obviously not happy the way we started the game, I started the game," Meier said. "You just got to be able to turn it on. We've got a lot speed, a lot of guys with skill that can make things happen."
Hamilton, a defenseman, scored his 20th goal, reaching that mark for the first time in his 11-year career. Haula connected for the third straight game.
With Toews returning, Blackhawks F MacKenzie Entwistle sat out... New Jersey C Yegor Sharangovich played in his 200th game. ... Chicago D Jarred Tinordi (hip) missed his third game, but coach Luke Richardson said he's close to returning. ... The Devils scratched D Brendan Smith and Fs Curtis Lazar and Nathan Bastian.
Devils: At Winnipeg on Sunday night.
Blackhawks: At Calgary on Tuesday night.