Through two periods, New Jersey Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid was unbeatable in net. In the third period, with the Caps down a goal and down a man, Washington finally found an offensive spark from the most unlikeliest of sources: the penalty kill.
Kinkaid was phenomenal for the the Devils, turning aside 39 shots in regulation, 43 for the game. He also stopped both shots he faced in the shootout.
“Over 40 shots usually will get it done, but it wasn't good enough tonight,” Justin Williams said.
“Hot goalie,” Jay Beagle said. He later added that Kinkaid “stood on his head.”
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In the end, the Caps managed to beat Kinkaid only once and it came on the penalty kill from Daniel Winnik.
Winnik pressured Beau Bennett at the blue line to force a turnover and started the rush with Beagle.
“I just yelled to Winny he had time so their D kind of slid over and played me more and let the tracker try and take him and he just flicks that on net,” Beagle said. “I almost kind of got it with my foot on the very first rebound and I knew winny was standing there and I just tried to shovel it back as I fell, just tried to get it back behind me to Winny for an open net.”
Winnik’s flick on net bounced to a waiting Beagle, but he was tied up with Yohann Auvitu and pushed behind the goal line. On his knees, Beagle then fed the puck back in front of the net to a wide open Winnik who finished the play off on the second whack.
The goal was Winnik’s first shorthanded goal of the season and the sixth of his career. With the assist, Beagle now has three shorthanded points in this campaign which pulls him into a tie for second in the NHL.
Beagle and Winnik clearly have found a chemistry on the penalty kill that not only helps the team kill off penalties, but also puts pressure offensively as well. Thursday’s goal was the Caps’ third shorthanded goal, already one more than they scored in all of last season.
“Everyone on the PK is having a good read on when to go for offense this year,” Winnik said. “Jay and I, we talk about it all the time, if we can go, we're going to go.”
“It's just bounces,” Beagle said. “If they bobble it or something, we jump.”
No team will find sustained success if they depend on their penalty kill for an offensive spark and in truth, the goal was not enough on Thursday. Washington still lost to one of the worst teams in the NHL at home against a backup goaltender. But a good penalty kill can provide a huge momentum boost for any team and against the Devils, it provided much more than that.
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