Leave it to a team called the Lightning to cause a moment to speed up.
Devils’ second-year goalie Keith Kinkaid was sitting on the bench Tuesday night, working the door as New Jersey played Tampa Bay, when at 13:13 of the second period
and in a 3-0 hole, coach Pete DeBoer pulled starter Johan Hedberg and told Kinkaid to get out on the ice.
“My first thoughts were, ‘Where’s my equipment?’ I didn’t know where to go, I didn’t know what to do, whether to go on the ice or go get my own equipment,” said Kinkaid, who was reassigned to Albany of the AHL on Wednesday and spoke to media after practice at Knickerbacker Arena.
“It was just an unbelievable feeling to finally get out there, the crowd chanting your name, which was pretty cool. I just had a great time.”
It was his NHL debut, and it was happening pretty fast. He didn’t even see the first shot he stopped.
“It was a good experience, and now I know what to expect,” the former Union College goalie said. “The guys are bigger. They do the right things there. A lot of bodies in front. The first shot I faced, I didn’t even see it. It hit me.”
He stopped 12 of 13 shots, allowing a goal midway through the third when he was screened with a Tampa Bay player in his lap.
He stopped three shots before the second intermission, then sat in the dressing room trying to cool off.
“I actually had to put ice bags on myself to calm myself down,” Kinkaid said. “I was kind of overheating from all the excitement and all the nervousness, but it was a great feeling.”
Then he returned to the ice and had to make an early third-period stop on a breakaway by Steven Stamkos. Stamkos skated in through the slot and tried to wait Kinkaid out for a finish at the right post, but Kinkaid didn’t commit too early.
Kinkaid was patient in his crease, went down as Stamkos came around the top right corner of the paint and, as Stamkos tried to tuck it in behind him at the post, Kinkaid was in position with his pad down to stop the shot. The rebound sat just a foot or so from his pad, and he gloved the puck to freeze play.
“He scored 60-something goals last year,” Kinkaid said, recalling the moment he saw Stamkos skating in. “The top scorer in the league coming down at you, and you hope someone will trip him down, hopefully. I just stayed with what they tell me here, make him make the first move, and he did. It’s a good thing he didn’t elevate it, and I got a pad on it.”
Stamkos had 60 goals and 37 assists last season, his third straight campaign with at least 90 points.
He entered the game with a 10-game point streak and at least one goal in eight of his previous nine. It took a pretty good save from Kinkaid to halt that streak.
Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said it was a tense moment for him
just watching the breakaway on TV.
“It was funny — I was watching it with my kids, and Stamkos almost broke through a couple times, and Keith hadn’t had a shot yet,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Just get him a shot to get him in the game.’ Then the [Sami] Salo shot went through, and he made a couple saves. Then, sure enough, of all the guys to break through, just on a clear breakaway. It was pretty nerve-wracking for us. I’m sure it was for him.”
Not only for Kinkaid, but for the family he had in the stands. He is from Farmingville on Long Island, and he had family and friends in the stands who were just as surprised as he was when he got the nod.
“My mom was crying after the game,” Kinkaid said. “She was crying during the game, my mom’s friend said, too. It was a good experience for them to see. They support me a lot, and I’m thankful for that.”
He was sent back to Albany, more than likely, just to get him some playing time after sitting in as a back-up for New Jersey since Feb. 26.
“You don’t want to be cold and not play a game for more than two weeks,” he said. “I understand. It’s just motivation to get back at it and show them what I do here.”
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