(Keith Kinkaid (1) and Damon Severson (28) after the win – @NJDevils)
The New Jersey Devils have defied expectations all year, and that has continued to the very end of the season, as they are alive entering the final five games of the season.
The Devils beat the Boston Bruins 2-1 on Tuesday night at Prudential Center to improve to 37-32-8, with 82 points.
The Devils are even with the Carolina Hurricanes, who also have 82 points, trail the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Wings (each with 87 points) by five points, the Bruins (88) by six points, and the Islanders (91 by nine points.
Their final five games are: two on the road, on Thursday at Florida and Saturday at Tampa Bay, followed by three at Pridential Center, Tuesday vs. Buffalo, Thursday vs. Tampa Bay, and Saturday vs. Toronto, who is run old friend Lou Lamoriello.
The star of the game on Tuesday night was goalie Keith Kinkaid, who made 39 saves, including 16 in the third period.
Kinkaid earned his ninth win of the season in his first game back after being benched for four games in favor of Scott Wedgewood, who put together a great run last week.
Kinkaid started out well in place of the injured Cory Schnwider, as he shut out the San Jose Sharks on March 10 and beat the Los Angeles Kings two nights later. He followed that up with three dismal outings, allowing seven goals to the Ducks in Anaheim on march 14, four to the Wild in a 7-4 Devils win on March 17, and was pulled after allowing three on the 19th at Columbus.
Kinkaid said of feeling pressure heading into this one, “There’s always a little bit of pressure in any game you play. It was good to be challenged. Wedgewood came in here and played four great games. He’s a tremendous goaltender and a tremendous guy, having played with him for two years. We’ve always battled and pushed each other.”
Kinkaid said of the help Devils goalie coach Chris Terreri gave him, “We took a look at my game early in the year and what was creeping in later this year. He did a tremendous job. Everybody goes through something like this. I’m just glad we found it.”
Devils Head Coach John Hynes said of Kinkaid playing like that in his first action since March 19, “It was good to see him be able to bounce back. You could see there was a focus level with him where he was controlling rebounds. I thought he was calm in the net and his lateral movement was better tonight. When he struggled a little but that was becoming an issue, his angles and things like that. He made a couple big saves late in the game and then on the PK (penalty kill) in the second period on those lateral saves. That was more what we know Keith can do. It was good to see him get back to good habits and have a real solid game for us.”
“Keith hit some adversity again with Wedgewood coming in ad playing well. He had to have a response. He had to be able to be mentally tough and be able to concentrate on himself. He had to be a good team player and he did those things. The respoinse he gave I think talks about his competitiveness. I think that’s a step in the right direction for him in his career, but also for our team,” said Hynes.
On how Kinkaid improved his game, Hynes said, “There were some things in his game he had gotten away from. Some of his angles and positioning and things like that. He and Chris (Terreri) talked about it and I think he saw that on video. Sometimes in this league it’s tough to get your game back because there are so many games. I think it’s good that Scotty (Wedgewood) came in here and played well. Competition drives everyone.”
Devils center Travis Zajac said of Kinkaid, “A great response by him. He’s a gamer. He had five two-on-ones in the first period where he came up big.”
The Devils main starting goalie, Cory Schneider, could be back as early as Thursday in Florida, and Kinkaid said of how that will affect him, “The same as before. I know my role on the team. If they put me in another game, I’ll take it.”
The Devils got their goals via the power play, with Travis Zajac scoring one with 4:01 left in the first period, and Reid Boucher 4:05 into the third period. Boucher got an assist on Zajac’s goal, and Zajac received one for setting up Boucher on his goal.