NEWARK, N.J. — New Jersey Devils rookie Keith Kinkaid has never been a fan of the shootout, and that was long before he faced Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in his first NHL start.
Toews and Kane scored on the Blackhawks’ first two chances, and Chicago rallied late and earned its seventh straight victory, 3-2 over the Devils on Dec. 9.
“They are top guys in the NHL,” Kinkaid said after his outstanding 37-save performance ended in a loss. “Obviously I was a little too far out on the Toews one, I wanted to get the leg out, and then Kane has a great set of hands. You never know what he is going to do.”
Chicago had to work to get the best of the 25-year old Kinkaid, who was called up from Albany earlier Dec. 9 with the Devils playing the second game of a back-to-back set.
New Jersey had the better of play for almost the first 25 minutes before the Blackhawks started showing why they are one of the NHL’s top teams.
“Early on, he was playing pretty well,” Toews said of Kinkaid. “We threw some shots at him and I think, if anything, we built his confidence up a little bit throughout the game. Nowadays, even backups are strong, and you have to make their job as tough as you can.”
Bryan Bickell and Duncan Keith had goals in regulation for Chicago, whose winning streak matches the NHL high for this season. Scott Darling made 22 saves, including two stops in the shootout.
Jordin Tootoo and Stephen Gionta scored for New Jersey. Steve Bernier added two assists for the Devils, who were trying for back to back wins for the first time in almost a month.
Darling made a glove save on Martin Havlat to start the shootout, and Toews easily beat Kinkaid with a backhander. After Darling made a pad save on Jaromir Jagr, Kane skated in on Kinkaid, danced in front of him, and slid the puck into the net for the Blackhawks’ fourth win in four shootouts.
“You want to get the win for the team, so it’s a little tough,” Kinkaid said. “I hate the shootout anyway, so they are big points, and we are fortunate to get one.
Chicago had tied it with 3:13 left in regulation when defenseman Duncan Keith put the rebound of Marian Hossa’s shot into an open net. The play developed after the Blackhawks kept the puck in the Devils zone, and Toews found Hossa for a good shot in close.
“Give him some credit,” Keith said of Kinkaid. “He played big for his first game. We just played a patient game. I don’t think it was our best game, but we hung in there until the end and we were able to do it in the shootout.”
It appeared that Gionta’s goal on a baseball swing at 2:31 of the third period was going to be the winner.
Defenseman Damon Severson took a shot from the right point that Darling stopped. Blackhawks defenseman Klas Dahlbeck used his glove to swat the rebound away, but Gionta lined it right into the net.
Havlat nearly gave the Devils a two-goal lead later in the period but his breakaway drive hit off the post and crossbar with 9:30 left.
Kinkaid had stopped Patrick Sharp on a breakaway just about 30 seconds before Gionta’s second goal of the season.
Chicago was a little off its game in the first period, but it dominated the second, outshooting New Jersey 17-7. Bickell got the only goal with a shot from the right circle after he carried the puck into the Devils zone leading a 3-on-1 break.
Sharp, playing for the first time since Nov. 4 because of a lower-body injury, got the only assist on the play set up by a Devils turnover.
New Jersey’s goal also was the result of a turnover. Tootoo scored from the same circle as Bickell after taking a pass from Bernier.
(TOM CANAVAN, AP Sports Writer)