BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The New Jersey Devils overcame a depleted lineup to stay on the fringes of the NHL playoff race.
Steve Bernier scored twice, including the 100th of his career, to make up for the absence of two of New Jersey’s three leading scorers. And backup goalie Keith Kinkaid provided starter Cory Schneider a much-needed break by stopping 28 shots in a 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.
”Two great players out, everybody’s got to do a little bit more,” said Bernier, referring to the Devils missing Patrik Elias and Mike Cammalleri. Elias missed his third straight game because of back spasms, while Cammalleri was held out after coming down with an illness during the morning skate.
Bernier stepped up by snapping a 14-game goal drought by scoring less than five minutes apart in the second period to put the Devils up 2-0.
”It’s been 14 games, but I thought we’ve been playing well,” he said. ”I never worry about that stuff, but it’s always nice to get one out of the way.”
Scott Gomez and Adam Henrique set up both of Bernier’s goals in helping New Jersey improve to 3-0-1 in its past four. Jordin Tootoo also scored for the Devils (31-29-11), who inched up the Eastern Conference standings by moving into a tie for 11th with Philadelphia.
As for Kinkaid, his only lament was having a bid for his first career shutout come to an end with 8:19 remaining, when Matt Moulson scored a power-play goal.
”Time goes slow in the third period when you have the shutout,” said Kinkaid, who stopped the first 27 shots he faced. ”I just can’t buy one.”
The last-place Sabres (20-44-7) had a modest 1-0-1 streak snapped, and dropped to 1-6-2 in their past nine.
”It was a little too little too late,” said Moulson of his goal, which came after Kinkaid stopped the initial two shots he faced. ”We got a bunch of chances in the second and didn’t capitalize. And they came down and capitalized on theirs.”
Defensive breakdowns resulted in all three goals allowed by Buffalo.
Bernier opened the scoring nine minutes into the second period. Gomez started the play by driving up the left wing, drawing both Sabres defensemen – Tyson Strachan and Andre Benoit – with him. Gomez then fed a pass into the middle to a wide-open Bernier, who tapped the puck inside the right post before goalie Anders Lindback could get across.
Bernier scored again just under five minutes later. Henrique set him up this time by flipping a bad-angle shot into the crease from the left corner. Lindback had difficulty controlling the puck and Bernier shoveled it in while driving in front from behind the net.
And Tootoo made it 3-0 early in the third by out-muscling defenseman Mike Weber and shoveling the puck inside the right post.
Moulson credited the Devils’ stifling defense for making it difficult to generate many scoring chances, even though Sabres had a 29-27 edge in shots.
”I don’t think we played with a lot of energy,” Moulson said. ”They really play a smart game and try to smother you in their own end and not give you much inside.”
The Sabres had a goal disallowed following a video review seven minutes in.
Kinkaid stopped Rasmus Ristolainen’s shot from the right circle but gave up a rebound into the slot. Replays showed that Johan Larsson clearly directed the puck into the net with his right skate.
”You don’t want to start off the period down early, but I saw that kicking motion,” Kinkaid said. ”I had confidence it wasn’t going to be allowed.”
NOTES: The Sabres recalled C Mikhail Grigorenko from AHL Rochester, and demoted forward Tim Schaller and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel. … Henrique extended his points streak to four games, in which he has two goals and three assists. … The Devils won their first game at Buffalo since a 4-1 victory on Feb. 14, 2012, to snap an 0-1-3 skid.