NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils rookie goaltender Keith Kinkaid knows he must make the most of every opportunity he gets as the backup to Cory Schneider.
In his first start in six games, the 25-year-old did just that Saturday when he made 26 saves in a 3-1 victory against the Florida Panthers at Prudential Center.
Jaromir Jagr and Mike Cammalleri scored in the first period and Steve Bernier scored an empty-net goal to give the Devils a 3-0 lead before Brandon Pirri spoiled the shutout with 1:29 remaining for the Panthers. Florida goalie Roberto Luongo, who has lost two starts to New Jersey this season, made 11 saves.
"[Kinkaid] has played well, without question, and it's just too bad we couldn't get the shutout for him," Devils co-coach Lou Lamoriello said. "As I said all along, our goaltending is something we don't need to worry about."
Kinkaid was looking to become the first Devils rookie to get a shutout since Mike Dunham made 28 saves in a 5-0 victory against the Calgary Flames on Dec. 16, 1996.
"I was trying not to think about it but it's always in the back of your mind," Kinkaid said. "It's upsetting because we went 58 1/2 minutes without giving up a goal. Hopefully there are a few more games in my future and we can get it done."
Kinkaid was strong in the second period when the Panthers outshot the Devils 12-1. His best save came during a Panthers power play when he denied a wrist shot by Jonathan Huberdeau from the slot with less than five minutes remaining. Kinkaid also stopped a Derek MacKenzie slap shot from the left circle with his left pad at 16:37.
"[Kinkaid] played really well; I thought we had some really good scoring chances but didn't put them in the back of the net," Panthers forward Shawn Thornton said. "But I don't want to take anything away from [Kinkaid] either, he played really well."
The Devils' only shot of the second came with two seconds remaining on a slap shot by Bernier from the right circle.
Lamoriello adjusted the lineup after watching the Devils struggle to generate offense in a 2-1 overtime loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Bernier was moved alongside left wing Adam Henrique and center Scott Gomez, and Cammalleri centered left wing Dainius Zubrus and right wing Jagr.
After 10 shots on goal in the first period, the Devils had four in the second and third periods combined. It was the second straight game they were credited with 14 shots.
"We had opportunities to shoot but we passed them up for whatever reason," Lamoriello said. "That's what you look at, are you getting the opportunities? It's not like I'm telling them not to shoot, that's an understatement. But we have to generate more shots, there's no question."
The Devils (19-22-9), winners of three of their past four games (3-0-1), continue their five-game homestand against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday and Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday. The Devils lead the all-time series against the Panthers, 51-24-10, including 29-10-4 in their past 43 home games.
The Panthers (21-16-10), who are 1-4-1 in their past six games, continue their three-game road trip against the New York Rangers on Monday and the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
"They may have had 14 shots but seven were Grade A scoring chances, so that's not how we play," Thornton said. "We have to play better than that. When we're playing the way we're supposed to be playing we're a really good team, but we just have to score some goals."
Pirri also was frustrated with the lack of goals for the Panthers.
"We have to get ugly goals because we're an ugly team and we need to score ugly goals," he said.
The Devils opened a 2-0 lead in the first on goals by Jagr and Cammalleri. Jagr scored his 10th of the season and the 715th of his NHL career when he took a feed from Zubrus in the right circle and skated into the slot before shooting into the right corner at 9:40.
The goal, Jagr's first point in six games, moved him within two goals of tying Phil Esposito (717 goals) for fifth place in NHL history.
Bernier made a highlight-reel pass on Cammalleri's power-play goal at 14:37 to give New Jersey a 2-0 lead. After Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov was whistled for holding at 13:10, Bernier set up in the slot before threading a blind, between-the-legs, backhand to Cammalleri, who scored from the right circle.
Kinkaid said he needs to duplicate the effort from Saturday each time he gets a start.
"It's a good thing to deliver like this but all the guys delivered out there and made my job easy," he said. "I'm there to stop the puck, but they didn't give me many hard ones, so it was a good job all around."