Eleven of the New Jersey Devils to play against the Chicago Blackhawks had dressed in an Albany Devils uniform within the last three seasons. If that weren’t enough to give Albany fans something to cheer about, goaltender Keith Kinkaid made his first career NHL start.
The 25-year-old came within 3:13 of his first career win, but a Duncan Keith goal in the closing minutes followed by a 2-0 shootout loss handed the Devils a 3-2 loss Tuesday at Prudential Center.
“I just wanted to give the team a chance to win and prove my worth,” Kinkaid told reporters after the game. “Obviously, not the turnout I wanted, but definitely something to improve on.”
Kinkaid entered the game played 53 minutes of relief time in the NHL. Although he arrived in New Jersey on Monday night, Kinkaid said he didn’t know he was getting the start until Tuesday morning.
In the AHL, the Devils netminder was rolling. He was 3-1-1 in his last five appearances, posting a 1.77 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage.
Against the Blackhawks, he turned aside 37 of 39 shots. His skills were on display during crucial penalty kill moments. He helped the team stave off a four minute double minor midway through the second period and a two minute penalty in overtime.
“I thought he was great,” said New Jersey Head Coach Pete DeBoer. “He came in and he was loose. He had a lot of energy and he gave us a chance tonight. We needed some energy tonight.”
“He was tremendous,” said former Albany Devil Adam Henrique. “Just like Cory played last night, Keith came in like he’s played a ton of games before. He’s in there. He’s calm. He kept us in the game throughout. He made a lot of big saves. He deserved the win. That’s obviously a huge point for us with the effort we put forward. But, Keith deserved to win there.”
Kinkaid’s affiliation to the Capital Region precedes his three-plus seasons with the AHL Devils. The Farmingville, NY native played two seasons at Union College in Schenectady, NY, leading the Dutchmen to their first ever NCAA Division I Tournament appearance.
Although getting his first start took longer than he had planned, Kinkaid felt it was worth the wait.
“It feels good to see what I can do, get the feel, and, hopefully, there’s many more after this.”