The Devils were making their one and only appearance before a national audience on the NBC Sports Network tonight against the Washington Capitals. With their recent play, they were not expected to wow anyone just tuning in to a Devils game for the first time. Instead, the Devils ended up winning what could only be described as a goaltender’s duel in a shootout.
Simply put, Keith Kinkaid, who got the start over Cory Schneider tonight, was phenomenal. He played his game of the season, standing on his head at times for the Devils and helping the team prevail over a fire-power laden Caps.
Tonight was the (now) annual “dad’s trip” for the Devils. The player’s dads were in attendance at Verizon Center to watch their sons play. And like last year when they saw a victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, the dads were treated to one of the Devils’ better efforts this season as well.
But the Devils would have to do it without Vern Fiddler and Taylor Hall. Both are out with injuries. Hall’s injury is day-to-day and the team insists that it is not related to either his knee injury from earlier in the year or the high stick he took in the last Pittsburgh game. Jon Merrill and Pavel Zacha were also scratched for New Jersey while Yohann Auvitu was back in on the blue line and Luke Gazdic was back in up front. Jacob Josefson was also medically cleared from his concussion and played tonight.
In goal, Washington sent out their Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Braden Holtby who made 26 saves on 27 Devils shots and was only minimally tested. As mentioned, the Devils countered with Kinkaid, who made 43 saves on 44 Caps shots. But again, he was fantastic for most of the night, keeping the Devils in a game that could have just as easily have gotten out of control in favor of the Capitals.
The Capitals have won seven straight against the Devils, which is not their franchise record for wins over the Devils. They have won eight straight over New Jersey twice.
The game got off to a nice start for the Devils, Michael Cammalleri just 6:10 into the game, snuck behind the defense with a partial breakaway. He was stopped by Holtby, but Karl Alzner crashed into his own net. The goal cage came off of its moorings and Alzner was called for delay of game. The resulting power play did not produce a shot for the Devils. In fact, the Devils were 0-for-4 on the night with the man advantage. Washington was also 0-for-4, but did pick up a shorthanded goal.
But as good as the first period started out for the Devils, it ended just as roughly. New Jersey was under siege in the final minutes of what would turn out to be a scoreless period because of Kinkaid. The Devils were outshot 14-8 in the first period by the Capitals.
Just 1:05 into the second frame, the Devils broke the scoreless tie when PA Parenteau picked off a Washington breakout pass through the slot and fired on Holtby, scoring over his shoulder, glove side. The goal was unassisted and the Devils had the 1-0 lead.
The Devils would have a few chances to double their lead. On a 2-on-1, Devante Smith-Pelly shot wide after the pass rolled off of his stick.
Washington also had their chances, like Jay Beagle’s shorthanded opportunity while the Devils were killing off a penalty in the early stages of the second.
The Caps would eventually tie things up at 3:50 into the third when Beagle made a nice pass from his knees to Daniel Winnik, who finally beat Kinkaid to tie things up at one. Colonia, New Jersey native John Carlson had the secondary assist on that goal.
And that was it for the scoring in regulation, as fans just sat back and watched the Keith Kinkaid Show all night – and into overtime, where he stopped some nice shots. Alex Ovechkin had an opportunity to win things with seconds on the clock in the OT period when he misfired in front of the net. Miles Wood created some opportunities for the Devils with his forechecking and Adam Henrique was stopped by Holtby on a breakaway in the OT as well.
When things could not be settled in overtime and both teams had gained a point in the Metropolitan Division standings, it was up to a shootout to dole out the second point.
Kinkaid made a save on TJ Oshie in the first round, as Washington elected to shoot first, then Mike Cammalleri converted for the Devils, making a nice series of moves to beat Holtby. Evgeny Kuznetsov was then stymied by Kinkaid and Jacob Josefson – playing in his first game back for the Devils – beat Holtby to win the game for the Devils. Josefson seems to be almost automatic in shootouts and he did not disappoint tonight.
Next up, the Devils will faceoff with the Capitals again on Saturday in a 1 PM New Year’s Eve matinee at home. You would have to think, based on how he played tonight, that John Hynes would have to go back to Kinkaid Saturday afternoon. He just seemed to be playing with a lot more confidence than Cory has of late and would seem to be the logical choice to go with.
It will be the second half of the home-and-home series with the Caps and hopefully the Devils can get something going here, working to climb back into it to at least make things a little more respectable this season.