NEWARK, New Jersey – After a hot 8-1-3 start and leading the eastern conference, the New Jersey Devils have now dropped to 7th ahead of the 8th place Rangers by only 1 point and Flyers by only 2.
The Devils continue to struggle on the offense side of the house, failing to produce any points until desperation struck late in the third.
For the seventh consecutive game the Devils gave up the first score as Nate Thompson beat Johan Hedberg through the 5-hole on a feed from Lightning forward Cory Conacher. Hedberg gave up 3 goals on 11 shots and has lost his last 7 starts.
The Lightning extended their lead in the second when Martin St. Louis beat a sprawling Hedberg on the short side dropping the puck in for his 6th goal of the year and 29th point.
Shortly after at 6:47 Hedberg was beaten again by Alexander Killorn giving the Lightning a 3-0 lead and forcing coach Peter Deboer to make a change. Off skated Hedberg replaced by Keith Kinkaid who was recalled from Albany when goalie Marty Brodeur was placed on injured reserve.
The 23-year old Farmingdale, NY native got his first NHL ice time and said later, “Once I got the call, I didn’t know what to do. I was scrambling for my equipment.” His first save didn’t even appear that he had seen the puck firing off the blue line from Sami Salo but a stop is a stop. Kinkaid finished the night with 12 saves.
The highlight for the new goaltender occurred just 1:08 into the 3rd period when NHL leading scorer Steven Stamkos got the puck on a 1-on-1 breakaway and was turned away by a sliding left pad of Kinkaid.
Unfortunately Kinkaid did give up an almost unblockable shot at 11:24 from Nate Thompson scoring his 2nd of the night making it 4-0 Tampa.
This was the second non-sellout game of the season with only 15,229 in attendance. With most of the crowd making their way to the exits the Devils found life at 6:16 when Adam Henrique scored shorthanded on a nifty backhand while sliding on a knee in front of the net ruining Anders Lindback’s shutout. The Devils lead the NHL in shorthanded goals at 6 on the season.
Shortly thereafter veteran Patrik Elias snapped the 0 for 18 power-play schneid making the game interesting for a brief moment.
The dagger went fully through the heart as B.J. Crombeen scored an empty netter with 1:20 left in the game.
The Devils will next take on Buffalo for the second time this season Thursday night at the Rock in Newark.