Keith Kinkaid played a marvelous game tonight in Pittsburgh. He should be named the first, second, and third star of tonight’s game. Alas, he leaves Pittsburgh with a shootout loss. The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the New Jersey Devils 1-0 in a shootout to give the Devils a 3-4 shootout loss. Could Kinkaid have been better? Absolutely not seeing that he faced 49 shots tonight and stopped 46 of them. Both were season highs for the Devils.
When a goalie faces that many shots and makes as many saves as he did and makes as many difficult saves as he did, the problem was not that the he could not make one additional save. The problem was clearly with the other eighteen skaters on the ice. Pittsburgh was definitely smarting after a bad loss on Friday and they have all kinds of talent, including two all-world forwards in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. But to give up 45 shots in regulation and 49 in total, that’s just terrible. Kinkaid put the team on his back to keep this game competitive and ultimately, the other skaters let him down.
The big talking point from this game will likely be Pittsburgh’s equalizer. With Pittsburgh knocking on the door and Kinkaid doing everything to keep it close, the Penguins pulled Matt Murray for an extra skater with about 1:14 left to play. Michael Cammalleri, who remains hot, managed to miss not one but two tries at an empty net. Pittsburgh attacks, the Devils ice it, Phil Kessel knocks the puck out of play, the Penguins make one more entry, and then the striking play happens. With precious seconds ticking off the clock, Malkin fires a shot from the high slot that Travis Zajac blocks. The puck is amid many players skates and Devils and Penguins were trying to fish it out. Crosby, on the perimeter of the scrum, manages to collect the puck and roof it right in front of Kinkaid with 14 seconds left. Commence the complaining about how the Devils never hold a lead, they always find ways to lose leads, and other statements that aren’t exactly true but they come up on social media and blogs for reasons.
Here’s how I see it. The first period was absolutely rough, but the Devils and Penguins were actually even in 5-on-5 play. The big 19 to 8 shot disparity in favor of the Pens was driven by special teams. The Devils put up a more respectable performance in the second period and battled back to make it 3-2. But at the second intermission, the Devils are up 35-32 in shooting attempts in 5-on-5 play and the Penguins are up 22-21 in shots. That’s about even. The Devils even had an edge in scoring chances after the first forty minutes. The third period was a disaster for about all twenty minutes. In the third period, the Penguins out-attempted the Devils 21 to 8, out-shot them 10 to 3, and out-chanced them 5 to 0 in 5-on-5 play. Even with a score effect of being up only one goal, the Devils were steamrolled in the third period. By the halfway mark of the third, the Devils were playing like they were on a penalty kill. And so the Pens kept coming at the Devils and Kinkaid in waves. The Devils’ poor play goes beyond a bad break in the dying seconds of regulation. The Devils did an awful job all period at maintaining their lead. They didn’t keep the Penguins honest, they kept relying on Kinkaid to bail them out, and they didn’t take advantage of the few opportunities they did have. The Penguins just needed one break to get the one shot to tie it up and they absolutely kept working for it. They got it at the end, but it could have just as easily happened earlier in the period. It hurts more to see it happen near the end, but it would still be a lost lead all the same. I don’t think the problem lies with the Devils not being able to steal a win; the problem remains with the performance - which was often too similar to Friday’s game, which also ended with an ugly performance that earned another ugly point
Of course, the Devils did have extra time to rob the Penguins of that second point. Overtime went better than Friday’s in that the Devils actually had offensive opportunities. Cammalleri had two big shots at the end and John Moore had good looks that were scuttled by his shots being blocked. Don’t misunderstand, between Kris Letang going off on a breakaway and Crosby, Malkin, and Letang, the Penguins had more of the run of play in OT as they did. I’m just saying it wasn’t like Friday night against Detroit where the Devils had no shots at all. In the shootout, only Letang scored and Murray came up big on all three shots by New Jersey. So it goes.
Ultimately, the Devils did not steal the win despite their performance. They’ll just settle for a point that their performance did not deserve with the exception of Kinkaid, who played one of his best games ever in his career.
The Opposition Opinion: Hooks Orpik at PensBurgh called this game “snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.” I would disagree because Pittsburgh was the better team for most of the night.
Keith Kinkaid Ruled: Seriously, 46 saves on 49 shots. His teammates owe him dinners, lunches, breakfasts, and even brunches.
Hot Mike: Michael Cammalleri will wish he hit the empty net on either of his two tries at it. He was falling or at least off-balance on the first one; the second one was a closer call. Still, Cammalleri made a big contribution to tonight’s game with two goals. He ripped a sweet wrister past Murray early in the first period after Kyle Palmieri won the puck off a Pittsburgh defensive turnover. Later in the second period, Cammalleri finished a great pass by Pavel Zacha to convert a power play that the Devils actually did very well on. That made it 3-2. Cammalleri finished the night with four shots on net and nine attempts. Yes, Cammalleri now has four goals and four assists in his last three games. He’s hot. May it continue.
Special Teams Success: The Devils had an abbreviated power play in the first period and a full power play in the second period. The former was not too bad, although they generated one shot and conceded another. The latter was very good. The Devils did an excellent job from winning the faceoff, moving the puck with patience and purpose, and - most of all - getting possession even when a shot was blocked or missed the net. Puck control is important and it has been an issue for the Devils on power plays. It was actually good and Cammalleri made it count. That’s a success.
The penalty kill started off really just surviving the Penguins power plays. However, as the night went on, they steeled their resolve. The Devils did themselves no favors by conceding five shorthanded situations. Especially with a few silly ones, like Travis Zajac getting caught using his hand to knock a puck away off a faceoff with five seconds left in the second period and Sergey Kalinin slashing Justin Schultz’ stick into pieces. But the PK that got swarmed early on held the Pens to little later on. All told, ten shots against in 9:35. And thanks to Kinkaid, no goals. That’s a success on that end.
Eleven & Seven: For the first time this season, the Devils put out eleven forwards and seven defensemen. Jon Merrill and Yohann Auvitu rotated out for each other as they played 11:39 and 8:17, respectively. The twelfth forward scratched was Jacob Josefson. He may have been missed in the shootout, but his recent performances in regulation were not. Given that the Devils were out-shot 30-49 in all situations and out-attempted 50-66 in even strength (this includes OT and a 4-on-4 situation in the second period), I do not expect to see John Hynes going back to this any time soon.
Vernon!: One other silver lining from this game was Vernon Fiddler. He’s usually good for 8-10 goals per season. He finally got his first with the Devils tonight. It was an important goal in that it tied up the game then at 2-2. It came not long after a sequence featuring Jake Guentzel jammed in a puck at the crease, Tom Kuhnhackl beat Damon Severson and then Kinkaid off a deke, the Penguins generating a 2-on-1, and Ben Lovejoy high-sticking Scott Wilson after said 2-on-1. It was a bad run for the Devils, but Fiddler provided a shorthanded goal to stem the tide. He just took the puck up ice, powered on the inside of Letang, and slid a backhander through Murray. It was sweet. Fiddler had three other shots on net and a lot of work on the penalty kill. Were I to only name stars for the Devils tonight, it would be Kinkaid, Cammalleri, and then Fiddler.
The Mightiest Penguins: Fiddler and Cammalleri each had four shots on net. Here are the Penguins who had at least that many. First, Nick Bonino who had four shots, was robbed by Kinkaid in the third off a turnover by Beau Bennett, and hooked Cammalleri which led to the PPG. Second, Carl Hagelin used his speed to keep being a nuiscene for the Devils. He had four shots too. Third, Evgeni Malkin also had four shots on net. While he did not score, he had three assists to make his presence felt on the scoresheet. The most important shot he took wasn’t on net; it was blocked by Zajac and out of the chaos in front, Crosby picked up the puck for the equalizer. Fourth, Crosby had five shots on net, a one-timer right in front that hit the right post and crossbar, and, of course, the equalizer. He was a danger all night long because, well, he’s Sidney Crosby and that’s what he does. Fifth, Phil Kessel had five shots on net and created one of Kinkaid’s many highlights in net with a big stop off a rush by #81 in OT. Sixth, Kris Letang had six shots on net out of twelve attempts to lead the team. Letang played a ton, did a lot, but his one marker would come in the shootout as the only scorer in it. To sum up, Pittsburgh’s stars plus two of their useful forwards all made Kinkaid work on their own. These six combined for 28 of Pittsburgh’s 49 shots on net. They were the mightiest.
And the rest weren’t too bad either. Every single Penguin registered at least one shot on net tonight. Even Steve Olesky forced a save. That’s how much they attacked.
One Last Thought: Let’s recap the week: San Jose bodied them on Monday, Toronto put them in a deep hole on Wednesday and forced a wild comeback, Detroit outplayed them on Friday and beat New Jersey in OT, and Pittsburgh outplayed the Devils (Kinkaid excepted) tonight and won it in a shootout. The common thread in all four games to me is that the defensive performances (that’s for all of the skaters, not just the defensemen) is an issue with this team and it’s directly tied with how well (or, rather, how poorly) they maintain possession. I do not know how this can all be addressed, but I do not think the eventual return of Taylor Hall alone (still a few weeks away) will address it.
Your Take: The Devils lost in a shootout in a game that featured a top-tier performance from Kinkaid and not nearly enough good performances from the other skaters. The Devils stole another point. What’s your take on this loss? What do you think the Devils should take away from this game before heading up to Winnipeg? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the shootout loss in the comments.
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