The Devils continued their crucial western road swing today by defeating the Kings, 3-0 in Los Angeles. Keith Kinkaid stopped all 38 shots the Kings threw his way while the Devils got goals from Michael Grabner, Nico Hischier and Miles Wood in the victory.
On St. Patrick’s Day, Kinkaid showed up to the rink in a flashy shamrock-laden suit and it must have paid off. He had the luck o’ the Irish and was phenomenal today in making his third straight start. The Kings sat at third in the Pacific Division at the start of play today, by no means guaranteed a playoff spot. So points are just as important to them as the Devils at this point of the season.
The Devils are still dealing with some injury woes. Patrick Maroon missed today’s game and is listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury. Jimmy Hayes and Pavel Zacha are also injured while Mirco Mueller was the healthy scratch. With Maroon injured, Jesper Bratt slotted back in.
With the injuries come roster moves through the lineup. Travis Zajac moved up to center the top line while Nico centered the second line. Coach John Hynes continued to tinker with the lineup, mixing and matching lines to try to get the most out of the pieces he has at his disposal.
As mentioned, Kinkaid took the starter’s net for the Devils and got the 38 save shut out. This was his 100th NHL career appearance, his first shut out of the season and his fourth career shut out. It was his second against LA, the other coming on Valentine’s Day 2016.
Kinkaid’s strong play raises a conumdrum for the Devils coaching staff. Do you start Kinkaid again tomorrow against the Anaheim Ducks and ride the hot hand, or do you rest him and give Cory Schneider a chance to pick up a win and boost his confidence? Back-to-backs are always a tough decision for coaches when a goalie gets hot like this. We will find out which way Hynes decides to go.
LA started Jonathan Quick in goal and he made 25 saves on 28 shots on net.
One of the early stories from the game were the penalties. Both teams were beating a path to the penalty box and were in trouble. But the penalty kill came up big for both sides. The Devils were 0-for-4 with six power play shots. LA was 0-for-6 with 11 power play shots.
But while the power play was relatively ineffective, the PK was strong. The first goal of the game was a shorthanded goal, the Devils’ tenth of the season, courtesy of Michael Grabner, unassisted. The goal was set up when Kyle Palmieri took a high sticking penalty putting the Kings on the power play. On the ensuing PK, Grabner caught up to a loose puck in the neutral zone, skated into the Kings’ zone all alone and beat Quick over the glove to give the Devils the 1-0 lead. That goal was all Grabner’s speed, as he just blew by the Kings’ defense and created the breakaway. This goal was Grabner’s second as a Devil after finally getting his first the other night in Vegas.
The Devils would make it 2-0 at 13:27 of the first when Hischier scored from Damon Severson and Brian Gibbons. After Severson took the puck from Gibbons in the Devils’ zone, he quickly hit Hischier with a stretch breakout pass that got Nico behind the LA defense as he caught them in a change. Hischier made a nice move one-on-one around Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty and then fired a puck to the far post, beating Quick to double the Devils’ lead.
Some penalty trouble for the Devils came when the Kings’ Tanner Pearson was stopped by Kinkaid – who made a nice save and the puck was cleared from the crease by Blake Coleman. In the process, John Moore took a hooking penalty on Pearson and the Devils went on the PK at 14:17 of the first. New Jersey would go down 5-on-3 when Ben Lovejoy took a hooking call against Tyler Toffoli 1:02 later. This gave the Kings 58 seconds of 5-on-3. To make matters worse, on this crucial PK, Andy Greene broke a skate blade, essentially making it a 5-on-2. But the Devils were able to clear, get Greene to the bench and kill off the 5-on-3 in what was a minor miracle.
Wood would put a bow on the Devils’ win early in the third period at the 6:06 mark. Brian Boyle poked the puck away from a Kings puck carrier and that would spring Wood and Drew Stafford on a 2-on-1. Wood used Stafford as a decoy before firing the puck short side on Quick to make it 3-0 Devils.
And that was all she wrote. Kinkaid made a few good saves late in the game to preserve the shut out and Taylor Hall was stopped on a breakway by Quick when he single-handedly stripped a Kings player of the puck, skated into the LA zone and went backhand on Quick before being stopped.
Some scary moments as Nico was shaken up by a blocked shot late in the game (Hischier played another really good game) and Boyle took a Sami Vatanen clearing attempt to the forehead, drawing blood, once LA had pulled Quick with about two minutes remaining in the game.
Stats-wise, time on ice was led by Sami Vatanen (22:00 including 2:59 on the power play and 4:19 on the PK), although of note, a whopping 7:01 of Greene’s 21:07 was on the penalty kill, a great feat in and of itself. Hischier led in shots on goal with five. Moore and Boyle both led in hits with three apiece. Moore had four blocks and Greene had two takeaways. The Devils won 44-percent of the game’s faceoffs.
The three stars were: Kinkaid (first with the shutout), Green (second with his contribution on the PK) and Wood (with the goal – his 17th of the year – and an all-around good game).
The Devils will be doing some scoreboard watching tonight. They have made some space between them and the Florida Panthers (who lost to Edmonton 4-2 earlier today) and leapfrogged Columbus (who are at home to Ottawa tonight) and Philly (who are at Carolina tonight). Should the Flyers win, they would take back third place in the Metro Division.
Next up for the Devils, tomorrow night they play in Anaheim against a Ducks team that is on the bubble in the Western Conference. It should be a good one at 9 PM eastern time, as the Ducks are desperate and the Devils are trying to continue to roll. We will see you then.
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