Hughes finished with a goal and an assist in 22:40 of ice time, with eight shots on goal. The Rangers rallied with three third-period goals for the comeback victory.
Hughes had missed the previous five games with what the Devils called an upper-body injury, saying he was "week to week" to return. New Jersey went 2-3-0 in his absence.
"We're in a rough stretch of hockey right now, including tonight. That's a game really good teams win, you know?" Hughes said. "We're not there right now, so that's something that we're going to have to get back to. We've done it before. We've just got to sharpen up, from our top guys all the way to the bottom. Just sharpen up."
Hughes was injured on a crash into the boards against the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 3, on his fifth shift of the game. He left the team's road trip for care back in New Jersey. Coach Lindy Ruff said at the time that the team was "fortunate" that Hughes wasn't injured worse in the collision.
"Yeah, I was concerned, but then after I knew I was done for the game, I kind of had an idea of what it was just based off of previous things," Hughes said.
Despite missing time, Hughes entered Saturday's game as the second-highest scorer on the Devils, with 20 points in 10 games.
Saturday marked the first meeting between the two rivals since the Devils' seven-game victory in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. The Rangers were the better team physically all night, including a hit from captain Jacob Trouba that injured Devils center Tomas Nosek in the first period.
"I think they played physical and we didn't match that," Hughes said.
The Devils led 3-2 with 8:56 left in the third period until Artemi Panarin scored his second goal of the game directly off a Vincent Trocheck faceoff win, surprising New Jersey goaltender Vitek Vanacek (30 saves).
"The guys that were on the ice didn't execute," Ruff said. "There's no way a guy should get a shot from there."
Rangers winger Jimmy Vesey scored his second of the game with 2:49 seconds remaining in regulation to give New York the lead and eventually the win.