Rodney puts Rats back in control
He didn’t make history, but defenseman Bryan Rodney more than made up for what he felt was a subpar effort less than 48 hours earlier.
Rodney came one goal short of registering the Albany River Rats first career playoff hat trick in a
4-1 win over the Philadelphia Phantoms Sunday night at the Wachovia Center.
In Friday’s Game 2, Rodney had the puck taken away right in front of his own net, leading to the Phantoms’ second goal in a 3-0 loss.
“I needed to come back and have a solid game tonight,” Rodney said. “It started off pretty good. I couldn’t be happier.”
Brett Carson had a goal and an assist, and Joe Jensen clinched it on an empty-net goal with 86 seconds left to give the Rats a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven first-round Calder Cup playoff series.
Games 4 and 5 will be played in Albany, starting Tuesday night.
The loss ended Philadelphia’s
14-game home playoff winning streak that dated back to May 7, 2004.
“We didn’t want to come here and leave empty-handed,” Rodney said. “We didn’t have our best effort in Game 2, and I thought we answered some critics. We’ve been a pretty successful road team all year. Tonight, we were fortunate, and got some bounces.”
Sticking to its game plan of firing more shots at Phantoms goaltender Scott Munroe, Albany scored on three of its first 10 shots in the opening period, including back-to-back chances 2:43 apart for a 2-0 lead before the period was half over.
At the other end, Rats goalie Michael Leighton was sharp once again, stopping 38 of 39 shots and allowing only Peter Zingoni’s power-play goal with 4:07 left in the third period.
“I thought we got back to playing our game,” Rats head coach-GM Tom Rowe said. “You don’t want to be running around, and getting out of position.
“I really liked our offensive play. We didn’t have a ton of shots, but I thought we were more organized in our approach. They did a real good job.”
Second in AHL playoff scoring with three goals and two assists in three games, Rodney scored on two of his three shots. Munroe sticked away Rodney’s one-timer off a pass from Jamie Johnson 3:20 into the third period and the teams skating four-on-four.
“That would have been icing on the cake,” Rodney said. “We didn’t need a third goal from me. We were just focusing on getting the win. I know that’s a cliche, but that’s the truth. We’re leaving here with two points, and that’s all that matters.”
Albany cashed in on its first power play, when Rodney took a pass from Carson, skated in and zipped a wrist shot past Munroe’s glove 4:56 into the game.
Carson made it 2-0 at 7:39, initially juggling a drop pass from Dwyer before sending a seeing-eye wrister through traffic and over Munroe’s right shoulder.
“I got a pass and I tried to get it off quick and it kind of bounced off my stick,” Carson said. “I took a step to the side and threw it at the net, and we had a couple of screens in front and it found a way in.”
Rodney scored a nearly identical goal to his first at 17:10, taking a cross-ice pass from Steve Ward and beating Munroe’s glove from the left circle.
“Obviously, when you get down two, three-nothing right away, it puts you back on your heels,” Phantoms head coach Craig Berube said. “We’re in an uphill battle from there on in. They’ve got one of the best goalies in the league over there, and it’s tough to score on him.”
For the second straight night, Albany was forced to kill a major high-sticking penalty, this one to Marc Cavosie with 9:22 left in the second period. Leighton made four saves, including one on Kyle Greentree at 11:00 that resulted in a mad scramble in front and the puck being pushed in after referee Nygel Pelletier blew the whistle.
“I think we knew we could play a lot better than we did in the first game here,” rookie center Brandon Sutter said. “We came out hard and scored a few quick goals, and killed off a big five-minute penalty. After that, we were in control.”
Leighton turned away 16 of 17 shots in the third period, including great chances from Denis Gauthier, Ryan Potulny, Stefan Ruzicka and Jared Ross in the first half over a five-minute span.
“We told the guys, if you lay down for a second, these guys are going to bury you,” Rowe said. “We wanted to continue to play the way we did.”
Albany 3 0 1 — 4
Philadelphia 0 0 1 — 1
First period — 1, Albany, Rodney 2 (Carson, Johnson), 4:56 (pp). 2, Albany, Carson 1 (Dwyer, McLeod), 7:39. 3, Albany, Rodney 3 (Ward, Johnson), 17:10. Penalties — Powe, Phi (goalie interference), 4:30; Jensen, Alb (slashing), 9:50; Grant, Phi (holding stick), 13:04; Matsumoto, Phi (hooking), 18:24.
Second period — None. Penalties — McLeod, Alb (high-sticking), 2:14; Guenin, Phi (high-sticking), 2:14; Mormina, Alb (high-sticking), 6:18; Cavosie, Alb major (high-sticking), 9:22; DeSantis, Phi (interference), 14:34; Powe, Phi (boarding), 18:57.
Third period — 4, Philadelphia, Zingoni 2 (Matsumoto, Reid), 15:33 (pp). 5, Albany, Jensen 1 (MacDonald), 19:34 (en). Penalties — Cornacchia, Alb (interference), 1:37; Ruzicka, Phi (tripping), 1:55; Gillies, Alb (interference), 5:25; Boulerice, Phi (slashing), 11:14; McLeod, Alb (holding), 14:06.
Shots on goal — Albany 10-9-6 — 25. Philadelphia 11-12-16 — 39.
Goalies — Albany, Leighton 2-1 (39 shots-38 saves). Philadelphia, Munroe 1-2 (24-21).
Power-play opportunities — Albany 1 of 7. Philadelphia 1 of 6.
A — 5,549. T —2:16.
Referee — Nygel Pelletier. Linesmen — Mike McDevitt, Bob Goodman.