NEWARK, N.J. -- Life as a backup hasn't been easy for New Jersey Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid, especially when asked to play second fiddle to NHL All-Star Cory Schneider.
But whenever the 26-year-old has had his number called, the effort has usually given the Devils an opportunity for a win. He did it again Sunday when he made 28 saves to secure his first NHL shutout and help the Devils to a 1-0 victory against the Los Angeles Kings at Prudential Center.
"Keith's in a little bit of a unique situation where he probably has played less games than most backups in the NHL so it's that ability to stay ready when you go through times where you don't play and then, when you get your start, that you go in and still be yourself," Devils coach John Hynes said. "You can't go in and feel as though you need to do something more to get more playing time.
"I credit our goalie coach Chris Terreri; he's done a great job with both our goalies and I think [Kinkaid] has done a fantastic job of being able to stay ready and perform when called upon."
Kinkaid received all the support he would need on a power-play goal by David Schlemko 5:19 into the first period for the Devils (29-21-7), winners of three straight and 4-1-2 since the NHL All-Star break.
Video: LAK@NJD: Schlemko opens up the scoring on power play
"This game is a big confidence boost for us and it definitely proves to everyone in the dressing room, if we didn't believe it before, that we can be a Stanley Cup Playoff team and can compete with any team in this League," Devils rookie forward Joseph Blandisi said.
The Devils begin a key four-game stretch of games against Metropolitan Division opponents Tuesday when they host the Philadelphia Flyers.
Devils center Adam Henrique picked up the puck for Kinkaid at the end of the game.
"[A shutout] has been a long time coming," Kinkaid said. "I can't even remember my last shutout but it's good to finally get it off my back; hopefully it opens the flood gates. It's not easy as a backup, but it's also fun because I like being along for the ride and knowing that whenever they need me, I'll be ready. I just have to be mentally strong."
The shutout was the first for Kinkaid since Oct. 21, 2014, when he made 22 saves with Albany of the American Hockey League in a 4-0 win against Wilkes Barre/Scranton, coached by Hynes.
The Kings (33-19-3), who earned a 5-4 overtime victory at the New York Rangers on Friday, haven't won back-to-back games since Jan. 17-19. Goaltender Jhonas Enroth made 17 saves.
Video: LAK@NJD: Enroth deflects two shots with his blocker
"If you're relying on luck, you're in the wrong League," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "I thought this was our best game of the [road] trip so far but they scored one, we didn't score any."
Kinkaid (4-5-1), who was playing against the Kings for the first time, won for the first time since a 3-2 decision against the Carolina Hurricanes at Prudential Center on Dec. 29.
"Cory has played so well but Keith is a big part of the team and an important piece," Hynes said. "I think the later the season gets it's important for guys to have a piece of the pie, and you've got to have contributions from everyone in order to be successful. That's something we've talked about, and Keith has played well when he's come in."
Schneider, who made 31 saves in a 2-1 win at the Flyers on Saturday, has appeared in 47 games.
"It's great to see [Kinkaid] get the shutout," Schlemko said. "He deserved it. He made a lot of big saves for us. The Kings are a big heavy team and they funnel a lot of pucks to the net, but [Kinkaid] fought through a lot of screens to make some key saves."
Kinkaid, 26, making his first start in three games, made one of his seven saves in the second period off a one-timer by Nick Shore from the top of the right circle at 12:19. He made 12 saves in the third, including a big stop against Trevor Lewis at the left post with 1:35 remaining in the third.
The Devils needed four seconds into their first power play to take a 1-0 lead in the first period when Schlemko scored his seventh of the season past a screened Enroth. Travis Zajac won the faceoff in the right circle back to Schlemko while Blandisi and Kings defenseman Luke Schenn battled for position in the slot.
The Devils barely missed scoring a second goal with the man advantage late in the second but defenseman Alec Martinez dove to deflect a piece of a rebound attempt by Lee Stempniak on what appeared to be a high percentage scoring opportunity.
Video: LAK@NJD: Kinkaid keeps Kings from tying game in 3rd
Stempniak was asked if the Devils, now 20-0-4 when scoring the first goal of the game, are relishing their role as underdogs this season.
"I think so," he said. "I think that was the narrative at the beginning of the year but at this point you can't say it's a fluke at this point in the season. I think we take a lot of pride in that. We've worked extremely hard for this. There's not many games we didn't play well, not many practices where we've been off. It's been pretty consistent."
Hynes said the players haven't focused on where they were projected to finish in the standings this season.
"A lot gets made of it at this point but really our focus has been the same, and that's that we believe in being a good team and competitive team every night," Hynes said. "That doesn't change when it's now in a playoff race. The first 20 games was no different than now, other than the fact we've been able to stay consistent in what our focus has been and mentality has been. We'll reset after [Sunday] with a big week coming up."
The Devils are 9-for-20 in their past seven games on the power play, and 8-for-14 in their past five home games. The Kings, who entered the game 10th in the League on the penalty kill, have allowed a power-play goal in five straight games.
Enroth was making his second start in three games. Starting goalie Jonathan Quick missed his third straight game with a lower-body injury sustained in a collision with Boston Bruins forward Jimmy Hayes on Feb. 9. The Kings play the fourth of a six-game road trip at the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.
Video: Schlemko scores lone goal in Kinkaid's shutout