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Blackhawks defeat Devils in Kinkaid's first start

by Dan Rosen

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Chicago Blackhawks weren't at their best, and they ran into a rookie goalie who made quite an impression in his first NHL start.

It didn't matter. The Blackhawks found a way to win. That's what happens when you're as hot as they are.

Duncan Keith scored the tying goal late in regulation, and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane scored in the shootout to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 win against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Tuesday.

Chicago (19-8-1) has won seven games in a row and 10 of its past 11 to move into first place in the Central Division. The Blackhawks were in fourth place on Nov. 16, when they defeated the Dallas Stars 6-2 to start their hot streak.

"We have some momentum right now," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We just want to sustain it."

Toews and Kane were the only two shooters Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid faced. Chicago goalie Scott Darling made saves on Devils forwards Martin Havlat and Jaromir Jagr.

Bryan Bickell scored a second-period goal for the Blackhawks, who were backed by Darling's 22 saves. Kinkaid made 37 saves hours after he was recalled from Albany of the American Hockey League. Stephen Gionta and Jordin Tootoo scored for New Jersey.

"We've always had confidence in our team, especially in our offensive ability with guys who can put the puck in the net and a mobile [defense] corps," Keith said. "It's a matter of sticking with it, being patient. We've been in situations where we've been down, but it's not over until the buzzer sounds."

Keith scored the tying goal off a rebound with 3:13 remaining in the third period.

Kinkaid was turning aside shot after shot with the Devils holding on to a 2-1 lead, but the rebound of Marian Hossa's shot from the right side came directly to Keith in the lower part of the left circle.

"We were pressing, gambling a little bit late in the game," Quenneville said. "[Hossa] and that line made a couple nice plays to sustain the puck at the net and [Keith] going backdoor, it was a big goal, very timely. We've had some timely goals through this stretch. That was one of them."

Kinkaid was the biggest reason the Devils (11-13-5) got a point. His left pad save on Patrick Sharp's breakaway 1:45 into the third period preserved a 1-1 tie. Gionta scored 46 seconds later to give the Devils a 2-1 lead.

Kinkaid made nine saves in the first period, 16 in the second, seven in the third and five, including two while shorthanded, in overtime. He made four saves to help the Devils kill a four-minute high-sticking double minor by Jacob Josefson in the second period.

"I thought [Kinkaid] was great," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "He came in, was loose and had a lot of energy. He gave us a chance. We needed some energy. It was a tough situation coming in on a back-to-back against a rested team, especially that team. I thought he gave us a real spark."

Goaltender Cory Schneider played in a 2-1 win at the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday. DeBoer has been reluctant to use anyone in net other than Schneider this season, but that might change after he saw Kinkaid play well against the NHL's hottest team.

Schneider, who made 39 saves against Carolina, started 27 of New Jersey's first 28 games.

"A little bit of disappointment and a little bit of excitement," Kinkaid said in describing his emotions after the game. "I'm just relieved to get that first start and hopefully there is a few more."

DeBoer couldn't hide his disappointment with the outcome. He thought the Devils deserved two points for the effort they put in and the game they got from Kinkaid.

"That's as tough a loss [as] we've had this year," DeBoer said.

The Devils are fifth in the Metropolitan Division and have been unable to find ways to win despite playing well.

"It's unfortunate, but you look at it as a missed opportunity to get an extra point, especially an extra point that I thought our guys deserved," DeBoer said. "But that's why that's a great team. They find a way. Look at the people they had on the ice when they scored that goal: Hossa, Toews, Keith. There's a reason why those guys are that good."

The Devils were inches, or perhaps just an inch, from taking a 3-1 lead at 10:39 of the third period, but Martin Havlat's backhand from the left of the blue paint hit the right post.

"I felt like we could win it," Devils forward Jaromir Jagr said. "We were close, but close is not enough."

Staying close is all the Blackhawks feel they have to do these days. Their confidence is so high that as long as they're within striking distance of a point they feel like they can get two.

"Give [Kinkaid] some credit, he played great, but I think we just played a patient game more than anything," Keith said. "I don't think it was our best game, but we focused on just trying to play our team game and we stuck with it. It wasn't our best, but we hung in there."


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