NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils rookie goalie Keith Kinkaid pumped his fists twice, looked up toward the ceiling, and was greeted with a hard hug from teammate Stephen Gionta that nearly knocked him over.
"I might have blacked out," Kinkaid said. "I was pretty pumped."
As he should have been. It took three solid starts, three blown leads in the third period, and three shootouts, but Kinkaid finally picked up his first NHL victory in a 3-2 shootout win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Prudential Center on Friday.
Kinkaid made 26 saves and stopped Lightning forwards Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Drouin in the shootout. Patrik Elias won it with his goal in the third round and the Devils improved to 2-5 in the shootout and snapped a five-game losing streak (0-3-2).
Elias beat Tampa Bay goalie Evgeni Nabokov with a backhanded shot off a deke.
"You look at the shooters coming down on him, you're talking some of the most skilled guys in the league," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said of Kinkaid. "He was confident and I think that provided confidence to our group."
The Devils (12-16-6) scored two goals in each of Kinkaid's two previous starts, but lost each game 3-2 in a shootout despite a combined 68 saves from the 25-year-old who continues to establish himself as the backup goalie to Cory Schneider.
Kinkaid has allowed six goals on 100 shots in his first three starts, which have come against three of the top teams in the League this season (Chicago Blackhawks, New York Islanders and Lightning).
Kinkaid has given up tying goals in the third period in all three of his starts.
The Lightning (20-10-4) forced overtime when Kucherov scored his 13th goal and fourth in the past five games with 40.1 seconds remaining in regulation.
"Déjà vu all over again," Kinkaid said. "It's the story of my starts so far, shootouts and tying [goals] in the third period, but we got the shootout win today and that's a big two points."
Nabokov faced 18 shots and made 16 saves, but the Lightning scored two goals or fewer for the seventh time in his eight starts this season. Tampa Bay is 1-4 in the shootout this season, and 2-4-1 in its past seven games overall.
"If you ask me right now when there was a minute left in the game would we have taken the point and run, I would have said, 'Yeah, let's take the point and run,' "Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We ended up getting it, but let's be honest, the game probably ended up exactly the way it should have. That game wasn't a good hockey game I think on either side. It ended up going to a shootout, the old skills competition, and we seem to be falling short on those quite a bit of late so that's tough."
New Jersey got goals from Adam Henrique and Elias to take a 2-0 lead in the first period.
Elias gave the Devils the two-goal lead at 15:17 when he beat Nabokov over the blocker on the far side with a fluttering backhanded shot off a spin-o-rama from the right-circle faceoff dot. Elias' shot fluttered after it tipped off Lightning defenseman Matt Carle's stick.
Elias has 397 goals and 996 points. His next assist will be his 600th. He has played in 1,183 games, all with the Devils.
"I get set so I thought he had no angle, but it kind of floated because it hit the stick," Nabokov said. "I don't know. Same as the first one, I don't know."
The first goal came off of Henrique's stick during a power play at 3:01 of the first period. Henrique scored from the slot after Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison attempted to clear the puck away from the blue paint only to have it bounce off the end boards come right back to the area. Nabokov was slightly off his post and the puck went behind him to Henrique.
"I wish I can say I did this wrong and this wrong, but sometimes in hockey those things happen," Nabokov said.
Stamkos' 19th goal cut the Lightning's deficit to 2-1 with 5:05 to play in the second period, but Tampa Bay was 0-for-5 on the power play, including a failed four-minute man advantage in the final eight minutes of the third period.
New Jersey forward Michael Ryder was issued a double-minor for high sticking at 12:18, but the Lightning had two shots on goal and seven total attempts on the power play. The Devils penalty killers blocked four shots.
Tampa Bay is 3-for-31 on the power play in its past seven games.
"You need them to come up big for you and they're not," Cooper said. "It's kind of stale. [There are] shots that aren't screened. When we get into positions to shoot we aren't shooting, and when we shouldn't shoot we are shooting. You just have to work through those because we are a pretty talented group. Eventually we'll work through that, but it's tough because the [power play] could bail us out a bit here and it's not."
New Jersey had multiple chances to take a 3-0 lead before Stamkos scored, but Nabokov made point-blank glove saves on Ryder and Elias, and Zajac hit the crossbar. Zajac also hit the post early in the second period.
For the first time in a while, those missed chances didn't matter.
"It's a huge win," DeBoer said. "We needed it. It was a gutsy win. There wasn't too many people probably picking us to win this game tonight, and we found a way. It wasn't pretty. There's a lot of things we want to clean up, but it was a character win."