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.