Not a smart game, Devils lose in shootout
Untimely penalties and one horrible lapse defensively spoiled the end of the Albany Devils best weekend of the early season.
Albany lost, 5-4, to Norfolk thanks to a 2-1 shootout in favor of the Admirals. The Devils still took four of a possible six points from their three games in four days over the weekend, but ended the weekend with an effort that didn't measure up to that of the first two games.
The Devils led, 2-1, entering the third period. Just 3:11 later, they trailed, 4-2.
"I just didn't think we played a smart hockey game or did what we wanted to do," Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. "It was good that we did storm back. Some guys really tried to lead the charge, but it's frustrating because we didn't do what we wanted to do."
Norfolk was at the end of a three-in-three, had lost its previous three games and four of six, so the game plan was to take it to the Admirals. Part of the reason that was harder to do was the nine penalties whistled on the Devils.
"The calls definitely did not go our way tonight," Kowalsky said. "It was pretty one-sided, from what I saw."
Albany was 0-for-3 on its power plays. The Devils held the Admirals without a power-play goal through the first two periods. At the second intermission, their penalty kill was 18-for-19 through 165 minutes on the weekend.
Just 32 seconds into the third period, the puck behind the Albany net, Norfolk's Peter Holland was allowed to set up in front of the crease. Devante Smith-Pelly sent the puck out front for a Holland one-timer to tie the game, 2-2.
“I didn't see the replay, but I know it can't happen, to leave a guy all alone in front there,” Albany defenseman Adam Larrson said. “Especially in the third. We have to close the game there.”
At 2:08, Jacob Josefson (roughing) and Jay Leach (hooking) were sent to the box at the same time, setting up a 5-on-3 for Norfolk. Kyle Palmieri scored twice in the next 1:03 to put the Admirals up, 4-2.
"It's been a struggle on the road to score goals, let alone on the power play," Norfolk coach Trent Yawney said. "I was, for the most part, pretty happy with the way our team played, regardless of what the outcome was going to be. In the last couple games, we haven't really competed as hard as we normally do. It was good to see them compete hard in three games in two and a half days, basically. That was nice to see."
Albany went down a man again at 12:24 when Tim Sestito was called for elbowing, then slapped with a misconduct call for whatever he said to the referees.
That's not usually the way to start a comeback, but something clicked, and 19 seconds later Matt Anderson stuffed a shorthanded goal past Norfolk's Frederik Andersen at the left post.
At 16:33, Larsson sniped a goal from the right point to draw the Devils even.
"We probably should have held the lead, but they were pressing hard," Yawney said. "We made a couple mistakes, and they made us pay."
Larsson said he has to make an effort to find more shots from the point.
"Of course, it's nice to score goals," he said. "Our PP has been struggling, and that's where we have to step up and score more goals. For me, of course, I have to shoot more. That's when you score. It's just facts. I have to shoot more, and maybe more pucks will go in."
The Larsson goal, as well as Sestito's goal to make it 2-1 in the second, were both scored during 4-on-4 play. Add in the shorthanded goal, and it looks like the Devils were a step quicker when there was more open ice.
"After they scored the first one [of the comeback], the shorthanded one, we were back on our heels and they're a fast team," Yawney said. "They played to their strength, and we sat back on our heels and allowed them to make too many plays. But we knew, coming in, they're a fast team and have some guys over there who can finish some plays off. We knew we were in for a tough battle."
The Devils salvaged a point, but felt like one got away thanks to a few minutes of poor decisions.
"Tonight was disappointing," Kowalsky said. "The other two games, Providence was a hard-fought game. In our guys' defense, we did look a little tired today. We had to skate yesterday because this was an afternoon game, but it was just light. ... We were maybe a little tired. We haven't had an off day since last Sunday. We were more sluggish than I thought we were going to be."
Of course, Norfolk was a little weary, too. These guys were playing as the Syracuse Crunch last season, and after the affiliation swap between the two franchises, now they have some of the longest road trips in the conference.
"It's been a bit of a contrast because in Syracuse, we really didn't have that many road trips, per se, at all," Yawney said. "But our guys have really enjoyed Virginia Beach and the Norfolk area. Travel's part of it, but it's not going to be an excuse.
"If you look at the teams that were in the final four last year, they probably had the worst travel in the American Hockey League, so I don't know if you can look at that as being a negative. We're going to spend nine hours on the bus, now, going back to Norfolk. There's no place to hide. That's the one thing. And it allows you to have some team bonding, as well."