NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Keith Kinkaid made 35 saves and the New Jersey Devils took another major step toward making the playoffs for the first time since 2012 with a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.
Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri scored for New Jersey, which has elevated its playoff chances with wins in five of seven games — including outstanding efforts in beating the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the Eastern Conference-leading Lightning on consecutive nights.
The Devils had to work for this one. They took a 2-0 lead into the third period and saw the margin halved when Ondrej Palat scored on a power play early.
Kinkaid saved the lead — and the win — with a diving save on a close-in attempt by Ryan McDonagh with just over two minutes to play and the net wide open.
Andrei Vasilevskiy had 30 saves as the Lightning lost for only the third time in 16 games (12-3-1).
Hischier, who set up Taylor Hall’s overtime winner in Pittsburgh on Friday night, gave the Devils the lead, tapping the rebound of a shot by fellow rookie Will Butcher into an open net at 17:51 of the first period.
Palmieri doubled the lead at 10:59 of the second period, beating Vasilevskiy with a snap shot from between the circles for his 21st goal.
Kinkaid stopped 24 shots in the first two periods, and benefited in the second when Nikita Kucherov, the league’s leading scorer, missed the net on a breakaway.
The Lightning were furious with linesman Steve Miller late in the second period when J.T. Miller was hit with a delay of game penalty for a faceoff violation with Tampa Bay about to go on a power play. Miller kicked three players out of the faceoff circle, starting with Steven Stamkos of the Lightning, Travis Zajac of the Devils and then Miller.
Kucherov left the ice at the end of period, yelling at the officials and bouncing his hand like a yo-yo to simulate the non-faceoffs.
NOTES: The Devils signed G Cam Johnson to a one-year, entry-level contract, which will start next season. He is a college free agent who completed his senior season at the University of North Dakota. … D Ben Lovejoy was out of the Devils’ lineup for the first time since Dec. 30 and replaced by Mirco Mueller, who was playing for first time since Feb. 22. Mueller had an assist on Hischier’s goal.
Lightning: Return home to face Arizona on Monday.
Devils: Host Carolina on Tuesday in second of four-game homestand.
(© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)