SAN JOSE (AP) — Keith Kinkaid didn’t exactly make the most of his first chance after starter Cory Schneider went down with a knee injury, allowing six goals in a loss to Pittsburgh.
He more than made up for that poor performance with the way he played against San Jose.
Kinkaid made 30 saves for his second career shutout and Travis Zajac scored two goals to lead the New Jersey Devils past the San Jose Sharks 3-0 on Thursday night.
“Definitely night and day,” Kinkaid said. “Just from the start I felt a little better. I was tracking it better, better mentally prepared. I just stuck to my game and the guys did a great job blocking shots and not giving them much.”
Devante Smith-Pelly and Zajac scored on successive shots for New Jersey that came more than 18 minutes apart as the Devils opened a three-game California swing by winning for the third time in 11 games. Zajac also added an empty-net goal to help New Jersey match last season’s win total of 32 to move within five points of Pittsburgh for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s just worrying about our game,” Zajac said. “You’ve seen when we play with structure and with details and play hard we’re capable of winning games. That has to be our mindset right now.”
Martin Jones made 13 saves but the Sharks were shut out for the fifth time this season. San Jose lost for just the second time in seven games and remained four points behind first-place Los Angeles and three in back of Anaheim in the Pacific Division.
Both of those losses in this stretch have come at home where the Sharks are just 12-15-3 this season. With eight of the next nine games at the Shark Tank, San Jose must figure out how to win at home in order to have any chance to catch the Kings and Ducks in the standings.
“We’ve been successful on the road, it takes a lot out of us winning those games and finding ways to win,” defenseman Paul Martin said. “Maybe we take it for granted, that the same thing will happen at home. We need to play (at home) with some desperation.”
There were few chances for either team early in the game before the Devils finally broke through early in the second period. Smith-Pelly’s shot from the top of the faceoff circle appeared to deflect off defenseman Roman Polak’s stick and past Jones to put New Jersey up 1-0.
The Devils then didn’t get another shot on goal in the final 16:45 of the second period but Kinkaid stood tall as most of the play was in his own end. San Jose got the final 14 shots on goal in the period and had two sharp power plays that came up empty as Kinkaid did a good job not allowing rebounds and stymieing San Jose.
“We were looking for that one goal on a power play or 5-on-5 where it was going to crack their end,” captain Joe Pavelski said. “We had some looks and we had some chances. They are a tight team they don’t give you a whole lot.”
By the time the Devils got their next shot on goal it also went into the net with help from a video review. Zajac took a shot that trickled past Jones. Brent Burns tried to knock it out before it crossed the goal line, but the puck spun and barely crossed the line before Jones brought it out. Officials ruled no goal on the ice before replay showed the puck went in, giving the Devils two goals on two shots in a span of 18:21.
That was more than enough for Kinkaid, who got help late in the third when Burns had a shot at an open net on the power play but did not get all of a fluttering puck and defenseman John Moore was able to block it in the crease.
“He just seemed like he was more in control,” Devils coach John Hynes said. “The thing that we know about him, he’s very good at just making the saves that he should make.”
NOTES: Kinkaid’s other shutout came Feb. 14 against Los Angeles. ... The Devils had their first shutout ever in San Jose. They blanked the Sharks at home in 1993 and 1991.