Kinkaid Solid as Devils Down Rangers

Keith Kinkaid is a native of Long Island. He grew up a fan of the Islanders and Devils’ legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur. In his first appearance against the Rangers (an April 2015 outing in relief of Cory Schneider) he lost and, to paraphrase him, said “I hate that team.” He knows what the Hudson River Rivalry is all about and had one of the best games of his career in his first ever start against the New Yorkers tonight at Madison Square Garden. The Devils hung on to win, 3-2.

The Rangers, like the Devils, were coming off of a loss in the backend of a back-to-back. They lost on Friday to the Columbus Blue Jackets and were starting backup Ondrej Pavelec in goal. It was the first time since 2005 that the Devils and Rangers started their backups against each other (it was Scott Clemmensen for the Devils versus Kevin Weekes for the Rangers back then).

The Devils made some changes to their lineup, slotting in Ben Lovejoy on defense in favor of Mirco Mueller and Dalton Prout and Drew Stafford returning for the first time since he left the season opener with a lower body injury. Stefan Noesen was scratched.

The Rangers came out flying, dominating play in the first period, forcing Kinkaid to stand on his head for New Jersey.

It seemed to continue into the second period as Kinkaid made a huge save on Kevin Hayes, coming across with his left arm, stretching it out to stop Hayes from stuffing the puck in on the side of the net.

However, almost immediately after that save, Rick Nash scored his first of the season from David Desharnais at 5:31 of the second period.

But then the Devils found their game and the ice began to tilt in the other direction. It began at 10:21 of the second when Adam Henrique took a pass out of the corner from Brian Gibbons at the hashmarks just outside the slot of the far faceoff circle. Miles Wood was providing a screen and Henrique fired the shot, beating Pavelec to tie the game at one.

The Devils would grab the 2-1 lead at 16:41 of the second frame when Will Butcher wound the puck around the boards to Lovejoy, who fired a puck on net and had it tipped in front by Wood. Miles Wood got credit for the goal and the Devils, by now, had taken complete control of the game. After having been outshot in the first period, the Devils ended up outshooting New York 12-3 in the second period.

In the third period, the Devils would pad their lead just one minute into the final stanza when Nico Hischier passed east-west through the neutral zone to Butcher, who found a seam and got the puck to Drew Stafford. Stafford went to his backhand and beat Pavelec to make the score 3-1. That goal, Stafford’s first as a Devil, was a power play goal (actually a 4-on-3 goal) set up when Chris Kreider of the Rangers and Kyle Palmieri took coincidental minors for roughing and slashing, respectively, at the end of the second period. Then, just 40 seconds into the third period, the Rangers’ Tony DeAngelo was called for cross checking Hischier, putting the Devils on the man advantage. The Devils would finish the night 1-for-5 on the power play and managed to stay out of the sin bin enough to keep the Rangers 0-for-3.

That assist for Will Butcher also made him the first New Jersey Devil to have eight assists in his first five games. He has been all that he was advertised as and a truly great pickup for the Devils. He was named the second star of the game by the media.

WIth the score still 3-1, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault would pull Pavelec with 3:04 remaining in the game. The Devils were unable to ice the game and Kevin Shattenkirk placed almost a perfect shot by Kinkaid to narrow the Devils’ lead to 3-2 (assist to JT Miller), but the Devils would hang on to defeat New York by the same 3-2 score.

Pavelec made 16 saves on 19 Devils shots on the night while Kinkaid was amazing, particuarly in the first and third periods, when the Devils were outshot (14-3 in the first and 14-4 in the third). He made 29 saves on those 31 shots and was named the game’s first star.

So the Devils improve to four wins versus one loss on the year and head home to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday at The Rock. That game airs nationally on NBCSN (the Devils one appearance on the channel this season) and should be a good one. It will be another test for the Devils, as the Bolts are expected to challenge Pittsburgh and Washington in the Eastern Conference come playoff time with a healthy Steven Stamkos. We will see if the Devils are up to the challenge this Tuesday.

Butcher Comes Back to Haunt Avs with Three Assists

Will Butcher was a former Colorado Avalanche draft pick who declined to sign in Denver and instead chose the Devils this past summer as a free agent. Likewise, Alexander Kerfoot was a New Jersey Devils draftee who declined to sign in Newark and ended up with the Avs.

They ended up across the ice against each other in their NHL debuts today at Prudential Center and it was Butcher and the Devils who were the story, as New Jersey won the game 4-1 while Butcher came away with three assists. Kerfoot was largely invisible.

It was a big day for Devils hockey. A large crowd was on hand to see the Devils’ red carpet arrival. The players arrived at the arena in police escorted cars and walked an aisle, stopping to have their pictures taken at a special backdrop with contest winners along the way. That began at 11 AM and by the time the puck was about to drop on the 2017-18 season, the 16,514 in attendance were at a fever pitch.

Fans even seemed (if somewhat briefly) satisfied with the new uniforms, with many overheard saying that they look better on the ice in action. Also, many people in the stands were sporting the new Adidas jerseys, lending somewhat of a legitimacy to what was being said.

And it did not take long for the Devils to break the seal on this new season. Just 2:15 into the first period, Colorado’s Anton Lindholm was called for interfering with Taylor Hall. The Devils had their first power play of the season and, at 4:04, Kyle Palmieri would whip take a slap pass from Butcher at the point. He then went around the Colorado net, found nothing and sent it back to Butcher. Butcher fired and the puck was tipped in front by Adam Henrique to quickly give the Devils a 1-0 lead as the huge crowd errupted.

The Devils took that 1-0 lead into the first intermission and then came out of the gates flying. The Devils’ special teams play carried the day and that continued in the second period. Just 59 seconds into the second period, Hall again drew an interference penalty, this time on Nikita Zadorov and the Devils were back to the man advantage. This time it was Jimmy Hayes who connected at 2:52. Butcher took the puck at the far point and went across to Palmieri, whose one-timer missed the net but came hard off the back boards to Hayes. Hayes buried it behind Avalanche netiminder Jonathan Bernier to make it 2-0 Devils.

A lone hiccup when Carl Soderberg scored from Tyson Jost and JT Compher at the 12:04 mark of the second made it 2-1. But the Devils would not back down. A scary moment as Erik Johnson and Kyle Palmieri collided knee-on-knee with Palmieri going off with an apparent injury occurred at 17:44 of the second period. Johnson was called for kneeing and the Devils had another power play. On that man advantage, Jesper Bratt, the rookie, would net his first NHL goal when, at 19:32, Hall dug the puck out of the corner and wrapped it around to Henrique. Henrique dropped the puck for Hall as they traded places along the half wall. Hall gave the puck to Butcher at the blue line and he momentarily juggled it before giving it to Bratt at the far half wall. Bratt pushed the puck quickly back to Butcher, who tic-tac-toed back to Bratt. He gave back to Henrique, who was in the slot, who then passed to Butcher, who faked a slap shot and passed against the grain to Hall. Hall saw Bratt coming in above the far faceoff dot and passed. Bratt then took the pass, hesitated before pulling the trigger and firing, putting the Devils up 3-1.

If that is a lot to digest, it was. The Devils just looked very crisp with their passing and were getting great looks all afternoon.

The final goal of the contest came after Marcus Johansson was assessed a double minor for high sticking Mikko Rantanen. With the Devils killing the four minute Colorado power play, at the 14:00 mark, Jesper Bratt and Blake Coleman burst into the Avalanche zone on a two-on-two. Bratt spied a trailing John Moore, who took a pass from him and toe-dragged before firing over the Avs’ goalie stick side. That made it 4-1 and that was your final.

Overall, the Devils looked good, with a lot of jump and, as stated, very crisp passing. The negative to come out of the night was the fact that Palmieri got hurt and that the Devils struggled a bit at even strength. They went 3-for-4 on the power play (Colorado was 0-for-6) and scored a shorthanded goal, however, to power them past a weaker Avalanche team.

The main positive is that the building was buzzing all afternoon. There is a vibe about this new lineup that has not been felt in New Jersey in some time.

In nets, Cory Schneider made 40 saves on 41 shots faced. Bernier was 35-for-39. Nico Hischier, although kept off of the scoresheet, was a force in the game. He had six shots on goal, two hits and a takeaway.

Cory was the third star of the game while Jesper Bratt (one goal, one assist) was the second star and Butcher, with three assists, was the game’s number one star.

Next up, the Devils go to Buffalo to take on the Sabres on Monday, Columbus Day, which is a 3 PM puck drop.