Kinkaid gets bounce-back effort, Devils even series
The Devils had worked for him at the other end of the ice, coming up big on the power play, so Albany goalie Keith Kinkaid did his part and more to preserve a 4-2 win over the St. John's IceCaps on Saturday.
"I just wanted to keep the lead for the boys," Kinkaid said. "We did a great job not creating second chances. I just tried to make the saves when I could."
The Game 2 win evens the best-of-five series, 1-1, and sends Albany to St. John's for Game 3 Wednesday and Game 4 Friday. Game 5, if necessary, would be Saturday, also at St. John's.
The IceCaps stole Game 1 with 23.1 seconds remaining, the winner coming on a knuckling puck just seconds after Kinkaid had lost his stick. The third-year pro shouldered responsibility for the loss Friday night, saying he owed his teammates a bounce-back win.
He gave it to them, making 30 saves, with 20 of them coming in the third period.
"He got better as the game went on, and when we really needed him, he rose to the challenge," Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. "In that third period, he was unbelievable."
Kowalsky said he thought Kinkaid looked a little nervous at times in Friday's game, and his decision-making outside the crease sometimes bore the brunt of that anxiety. But his confidence and competence grew throughout Saturday's win.
Kinkaid's biggest tests came during and just after a St. John's five-on-three power play in the third that sent two defenseman to the penalty box. Jon Merrill had been whistled for hooking, and 36 seconds later, Corbin McPherson went to the box for roughing.
"He's been good for us all year," Albany's Kelly Zajac said. "Last night was last night. We didn't help him out too much. We could have blocked a couple more shots. But he kept us in there, especially with that five-on-three. He made some big saves and really found a way to see the puck tonight."
"They're a big team," Kinkaid said. "They're good at screening, but I think our boys did a good job pushing them out and letting me see, clear the lane, stay outside and don't let anybody in."
Also in the third, a shot came in from the point and the rebound sat in front for a second. Kinkaid, and about half a dozen other players, went for it. The pile-up looked more like a rugby scrum, if Kinkaid was the ball at the bottom.
"[The puck] went into the scrum and found a way under me, eventually," Kinkaid said. "You just saw Jonny Merrill playing goalie in the butterfly position. He's been great all season.
"I couldn't count [the bodies on the pile]. I hate that because I get claustrophobic."
At the other end of the ice, Albany went 3-for-9 on the power play, pushing their total for the series to 4-for-11. They have killed seven of eight penalties, too, but allowed a four-on-four goal Friday.
The first power-play goal for Albany on Saturday came when Zajac won an offensive-zone faceoff back to Mattias Tedenby, who sent it back to Zajac. From below the goal line on the right side, he sent the puck to Stefan Matteau near the right post. Matteau's first shot was saved, but he poked the rebound past goalie Michael Hutchinson for a 2-1 Albany lead.
The IceCaps' lone power-play goal so far this series tied it up at 5:11 of the second period when Brenden Kichton finished a breakaway. He also had the first goal of the game on an even-strength rush. On that one, Kinkaid made the first save, but the rebound went off the skate of Merrill, then back past Kinkaid.
Albany took a 3-2 lead at 8:08 of the second period after another Zajac power-play faceoff win. This one came from the left dot just outside the IceCaps' zone. He won the puck to the space behind his St. John's counterpart, stepped behind him to the puck and fired a pass to Tedenby in the right circle.
"I gave Teddy a heads-up before," Zajac said. "I saw that their D man were so far back. It was a power play, so it was five-on-four, I just pushed it forward and it worked out. All their guys went forward except for that D man because he was so far back. I just made an easy play over to Teddy, and he put it in."
Scott Timmins added some insurance at 10:01 in the third when he deflected a Mike Sislo power-play shot from the slot.
It was a perfect example of what Kowalsky wanted to see more of Saturday, something that was a bit lacking Friday.
"We were at the net more, and we had more pucks at the net," he said. "That was one of the things we wanted to address. I thought their goaltender played really strong again tonight, but we didn't have enough traffic there last night. We didn't get there consistently enough. It was in waves, and when it wasn't there, it was a long shot, one and done. I thought we were pretty focused, right from the first period, on getting to that net."
So much work on the power play left those specialty teams players a little gassed.
"Our guys were really tired," Kowalsky said. "The power-play guys were really tired there at the end of the second, and you get concerned going into the third. Some of those guys, Timmins, Sislo, some of the D, you're going to need them to defend and hold onto that lead. I think that insurance goal was huge, because they're a high-powered offense.
"That fourth line, if that's what you want to call them, with [Rod] Pelley, [Darcy] Zajac and [Chris] McKelvie, really gave us energy after some of those power plays. I trusted them late in the game to hang on to that lead."
St. John's coach Keith McCambridge was just as tired from the penalties, or at least tired OF them.
"I thought, when we're able to play five-on-five, I thought both teams had a chance to get their scoring chances five-on-five," he said. "We would have liked to not be on the short end of the penalties for a good majority of the night, but we've got to make sure we are in control. We've got to make sure we realize where we are in the game and try to keep it five-on-five."
Don't call it a must-win, though. The Devils didn't.
"It is important to win at home before going to St. John's," Tedenby said. "We know it's a tough building. But I think if we play the same way we did today, we have a great chance to beat them over there."
"It's huge," Kinkaid said. "You couldn't lose two here and go into their building with the home-ice advantage. It's good to split with momentum going into their building."
"Going into that building and having to win all three would definitely be pretty tough," Kowalsky said. "We said before, you can't sit here and talk about a must-win. We just talked about individually and as a team trying to be better than we were last night, and realizing ... I felt we grew as a team just in that short 60 minutes. I think it's important in a short series, and us with our lack of experience, to continue to learn each period, each game."
For two teams that knew very little about each other before Game 1, it seems this crash course has made them well aware of the way this series will go.
"You see the adjustments made during each period. They adjust to us, we adjust to them," Kinkaid said. "Little tweaks here and there. We're getting familiar with each other now."
"I think we've got a pretty good bead on them," Kowalsky said. "Each coach, each team is going to make subtle adjustments. We can continue to get better. There's certainly mistakes and things we can improve on tonight. I'm sure they'll do the same. Both teams have a lot of depth and can look at possible lineup changes."
"You start to know their strength and a little bit their weakness," Tedenby said. "It's a little bit easier to play now. Yesterday's game, you don't really know what to expect because we hadn't played them. Now we're in the middle of it, and we know how they play and they know how we play."
Zajac said it will be nice to get Sunday off so the Devils can rest. They will practice Monday and Tuesday before flying out Tuesday afternoon.
In St. John's, the IceCaps averaged a sell-out attendance of 6,287.
"We enjoy our home ice," McCambridge said. "We feel our fans really get involved in the game. We've been fortunate to have sellouts every single night since our very first game when we came in there with the IceCaps. But I thought the atmosphere in here was really loud for this building. Right now, we're focused on making sure we play five-on-five hockey and making sure we're able to capitalize when we can on scoring chances."
That 6,287 is a bit more than Albany saw most of the regular season, but the Devils drew well in the regular-season finale, then played in front of 6,572 Friday and 8,026 Saturday.
"I think the fans did a great job here," Zajac said. "It was awesome to see all the people come out. Going up there, we've got the momentum right now, I think. Guys are feeling good. It starts Monday in practice again. We'll get right to it."
The Devils made two lineup changes from Friday to Saturday. Instead of David Wohlberg on the left wing with Pelley and Darcy Zajac, they inserted Chris McKelvie for a little more "energy and grit," according to Kowalsky. Defenseman Dan Kelly was sore after Friday's game, so Kowalsky brought in Alexander Urbom.
The forward lines and defensive pairs otherwise remained the same as they were Friday: Joe Whitney-Tim Sestito-Sislo, Boucher-Timmins-Harri Pesonen, Matteau-Kelly Zajac-Tedenby; Seth Helgeson-Corbin McPherson, Urbom-Merrill, Eric Gelinas-Adam Larsson.
The St. John's forward lines were Jason Jaffray-John Albert-Andrew Gordon, Kael Mouillierat-Eric O'Dell-Carl Klingberg, Patrice Cormier-Kyle MacKinnon-Blair Riley, JC Lipon-Josh Lunden-Jerome Samson; Josh Morrissey-Kris Fredheim, Zach Redmond-Ben Chiarot, Jordan Hill-Brenden Kichton.