Kinkaid a clutch performer

Former Union star Keith Kinkaid earns his first NHL win in his third shootout

After losing his first NHL start in a shootout against Chicago on Dec. 9, New Jersey goalie Keith Kinkaid said he wanted to work on and improve in shootouts.

What came next is not exactly what he meant.

He got to work on his shootouts, and to improve on them, as both of his next two starts in the following 10 days went to the tiebreaker.

The Union College product, who has played much of his pro career with the AHL’s Albany Devils, made a few stops in his second NHL shootout, then earned his first NHL win in the next.

“It’s definitely been interesting,” Kinkaid said Monday evening. “They keep tying it in the third period, so maybe I want to not let that tying goal up, to stay away from overtime. Whatever it is, I have to at least make sure I get to the shootout after that. Stay strong in the overtime, and then the shootout is hit or miss. I’ve definitely improved in each shootout, and I was happy to get that shootout win. It was a dramatic way to win my first game.”

Kinkaid said being forced to perform in the clutch, to at least avoid regulation losses after allowing those tying goals, can be a beneficial experience.

“It definitely helps you with your mentality to make sure you don’t let up another one,” he said. “Keep the game tied or try to keep the lead. But I definitely want to stay away from shootouts for a little bit. I’ve had enough of them, already.”

He may have had enough of them, but win or lose, those four standings points were the only points New Jersey registered in the seven games between his first and third start.

Kinkaid made his first start Dec. 9 in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Blackhawks, in which he allowed two shootout goals on two attempts, to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. On Dec. 15, he suffered another 3-2 shootout loss, this time to the New York Islanders, but he made three saves in five rounds. On Dec. 19, he and the Devils beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-2, in a shootout, stopping Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin in the tie-breaker.

Kinkaid will be a free agent at the end of the season, and finally getting a chance to play substantial minutes in the NHL should help both him and the Devils when the time comes to talk about another possible contract.

“It shows that they can use me again as a backup, or whatever they need me for,” Kinkaid said. “Yeah, that’s something we’ll deal with at the end of the season, depending on what happens in the rest of the season. But it’ll definitely be a good thing. It gives them confidence that they wouldn’t have to look elsewhere, I guess.”

The key will be to continue performing well. Now that he’s got his first NHL win under his belt, though, he’s hopeful that starts a positive trend.

“That’s three games in a short little while after not getting one for quite a bit of time. It felt good. I got in a little groove and finally got that win,” Kinkaid said. “It’ll be interesting. My confidence is sky-high right now. Coming off the first win, things should come easier, wins should come easier, hopefully.”

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