Albany playoff hopes dashed in 5-0 loss to Binghamton
It’s all over but the cryin’.
Unless the Devils still feel like tryin’. Albany can’t make the playoffs, thanks to its fifth straight loss, 5-0, to Binghamton on Saturday.
Combined with Connecticut earning a point in an overtime loss to Adirondack and Norfolk beating Worcester in overtime, the Devils were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. They’ve still got four games to play, though, all at home, beginning with Sunday afternoon’s contest with Rochester at 3.
The Devils lost on back-to-back nights to Binghamton, dropping a 5-3 decision on Friday in the Southern Tier.
“They’re a good team, they’re hard on pucks, they take away the middle of the ice, they’ve got great sticks,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “That was the difference last night and it was, again, the difference tonight. Our compete level, our ability to win those battles — we’re losing a lot more of them than we’re winning.”
It was the Devils’ fifth straight loss. They are 2-10-0-2 in their last 14 games, so that compete level has consistently been absent in the last month or so.
For the third straight season, all three since coming to Albany from their previous home in Lowell, Mass., the Devils have faltered at the end of the season and failed to reach the postseason.
Kowalsky said he will put it to their pride as professionals, hoping they then find a way to get back on track for the final four games and put that pride on display.
“What, do you pack up and go home tomorrow?” he said. “I mean, you’re still getting a paycheck, and that’s the bottom line. It’s a pride thing, and that’s the most frustrating thing. I don’t think, by any means, we quit tonight, but our attention to detail, our commitment to structure and system has wavered at times.
“They’ve got to look in the mirror, no where else. You can’t put it on somebody else or put it on different guys in the lineup. As a hockey player, you should want to go out the next shift, the next period, the next day and do better than you did the day before, and that’s really what it comes down to.”
The Senators got on the board at 13:46 in the first period when Corey Cowick and Fredrik Claesson got out on a short-handed rush. Claesson was skating down the right side of the slot, Cowick through the left circle. Claesson sent the puck to Cowick, then headed toward the right post. With Albany rookie goalie Scott Wedgewood committed to Cowick, he slipped the pass back across for an easy tip-in for Claesson.
Binghamton got the job done no matter how many men they had on the ice. After scoring on that PK, they scored on a power play. Then they scored during a stretch of four-on-four. They finally added two five-on-five goals in the third to put to rest any doubt of their claiming two points.
Dustin Gazley scored his power-play goal at 4:05 in the second period while he skated through the right circle, just outside of the slot, finishing Hugh Jessiman’s feed from the near corner.
Jessiman was feeding teammates like he was a buffet line, handing out three assists Saturday night.
Mark Stone booked the four-on-four goal on an odd bounce. He was on the right side and sent a pass across the ice, intended for Brett Lebda. The puck never made it to Lebda, though, hitting an Albany skate and jumping past Wedgewood into the goal.
Just 13 seconds into the third period, rookie Buddy Robinson scored his first pro goal in his third pro game, sweeping home a rebound of a Stone shot as the puck sat waiting at the back door. Cowick added the fifth goal at 18:11 of the third to cap the scoring.
“The guys worked real hard,” Binghamton coach Luke Richardson said. “They created a great opportunity at the beginning, short-handed. The power play, we’ve been really working on the power play because at this time of the year with the playoffs, it’s going to be crucial. The two units we have, have been really doing well. I think we’ve just been a little snakebitten. We got one last night. But we move the puck around really well, we’ve created quite a few chances, and it was nice to see the other unit get one tonight. Gazley did a real nice job getting into that soft area where it’s hard to cover, in the middle and off to one side. He made a nice play there.
“Then, I thought we just skated well. We skated well, and we tried to make them play without the puck as much as possible. When we dumped pucks, we tried to dump them where we could get them. Sometimes, when you make them play without the puck too much and you get them chasing you, that gets them frustrated, they waste their energy and it leads to penalties for them, which gives us a chance on the power play.”
Albany centerman Steve Zalewski said he didn’t think the Devils handled their frustration well.
“You see a letdown even after one goal,” he said. “We responded and had some possession, we had some good good shifts, but then they got a second and a third and it just kind of seemed to take the wind out of our sails and we didn’t recover from that.”
“You can sit here and talk about frustration, but you’ve got to go out there and compete,” Kowalsky said. “You’ve got to have some pride. We did some good things in the second period. We gave up a short-handed, a power play and one that went off [Alexander] Urbom’s skate, but we’re still standing around watching in our own end. They scored a bunch of goals right in the paint last night [Friday]. I don’t know if it’s disorganized, or we’re not supporting the puck . . . a lot of it’s just the battles.”
A lot of it, also was Binghamton goalie Nathan Lawson and his defense.
Lawson, a sixth-year pro, was the odd man out for the first half of the season as Binghamton sent Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop out to the crease most nights. Since March 1, though, he has been the team’s No. 1, starting 15 of 19 games and sporting a 9-4-2 record with a .942 save percentage and two shutouts.
“He had a real tough first-half of the year,” Richardson said. “We had Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop here, so he really had to wait his turn, and that’s a tough thing to do, not get a lot of action. He’s come in here and played great for us. The veteran part of his past has really helped him.
“He’s a real calm guy, and he keeps the guys calm. He comes to the bench at the timeouts and talks to the guys and keeps calm. Some goalies have to be focused and they don’t talk to anybody and they don’t like getting talked to. He’s not like that. He’s right in there with the team, he’s one of the guys. The guys like playing for him and he really battles for the guys.”
The Senators, also, did a good job of not letting the Devils see too many quality chances.
“What I don’t think we did enough of was getting guys inside of them,” Zalewski said. “Even in the second and in the first, as well, we had a lot of puck possession in their end, but we never really got guys through to the net. You saw what they did to us tonight. They scored from right on top of the crease. And last night, they had two or three like that. I think that was the difference. In front of our net, they had inside position and we were getting boxed to the outside [in their zone]. You’d see four or five of their guys inside or in front of the net, and we’d all be around the perimeter. You’re not going to score like that.”
Kowalsky admitted the Senators just played tougher than the Devils in front of the net.
“Last night was even worse, but yeah,” he said. “They’ve got some big forwards, and to their credit, they play hard. They don’t let up on pucks, and you have to counter that. You have to be just as hard, if not harder. You have to protect the puck, use your body, and you have to escape once you get it. It’s just not nearly enough. That team’s elevated everything, as most teams we have [played]. We consistently don’t do it.”
The Devils have four games remaining, with nothing on the line except pride and their standing in the ever-watchful eyes of the organization’s executives, since quitting doesn't impress anyone.
“We’re still hockey players, we’re still competitive people,” Zalewski said. “You’ve still got to come in and play and compete. Whether you’re in first place or competing for last place, you’ve just got to come hard and do everything you can. It’s your job to come out here and compete. You can’t just pack it in because you’re eliminated.”
Binghamton remains two points behind the Syracuse Crunch, the Senators with four games left and the Crunch with three.
“I wasn’t confident last weekend against Norfolk, but this weekend, the guys have responded,” Richardson said. “The character of this team, all year long, whether we were a few points ahead of Syracuse, or we were mostly chasing them all year, they really want to pursue it. That’s a sign of competitiveness and the sign of a winner. I’m really confident these guys are going to give it their best push. We have a game in hand, and that’s only good if we win it, so today was a good step in that direction.”
HELGESON’S FIRST GAME
Defenseman Seth Helgeson saw his first AHL game action, putting two shots on goal and avoiding being on the ice for any of Binghamton’s goals. He paired with rookie Corbin McPherson.
“I thought he was solid,” Kowalsky said of Helgeson. “Unfortunately, you throw him into a game when we’re not at our best. But he’s a big, rangy guy. He used his body well. I thought he did some good things in the corner. We’ll have to look at it, but for his first game, I thought he did a pretty good job.”
Helgeson signed an amateur tryout contract with Albany after finishing his senior collegiate season with Minnesota. He was a fourth-round draft pick by New Jersey in 2009.
Left wing Harri Pesonen, who is fifth on the team in points (26) and fourth in goals (12), was a healthy scratch for Albany on Saturday. The Finnish rookie has played in 60 of the team’s 72 games.
Right wing Matt Anderson did not finish the game Saturday.
“I don’t know yet,” Kowalsky said when asked about Anderson’s status. “He got stung pretty good by [Mark] Borowiecki at the blue line, there, played a couple more shifts, then never returned.”
Anderson was skating a line with Joe Whitney and Phil DeSimone. The other lines were Mattias Tedenby-Tim Sestito-Chris McKelvie, Reid Boucher-Zalewski-Mike Sislo and Mike Hoeffel-Darcy Zajac-Cam Janssen. Albany's other two defenseman pairings were Urbom-Jon Merrill and Jay Leach-Eric Gelinas.
Binghamton's lines were Stone-David Dziurzynski-Robinson, Cowick-Pat Cannone-Jessiman, Shane Prince-Stephane Da Costa-Cole Schneider and Jakub Culek-Darren Kramer-Gazley. The Senators' D pairs were Borowiecki-Daniel New, Claesson-Lebda and Tyler Eckford-Chris Wideman.
Though Binghamton scored five times, none of the goals came from Cole Schneider, who entered the night with seven of his 16 goals and three of his 16 assists coming in his first seven games against Albany.
Before the game, the AHL announced a two-game suspension for Albany left wing Jean-Sebastien Berube because of his match penalty for kicking in Friday's loss at Binghamton.