With goalie pulled, Devils get one back, but not two in loss to Crunch
The Albany Devils pulled goalie Keith Kinkaid late in the third period, trailing by two goals, and got one of them back. Two, though, was too much to ask for.
The Syracuse Crunch added an empty-netter with less than three seconds to play to re-establish the two-goal lead and win, 5-3, on Monday.
Still, the Devils got a better effort than in the 6-0 loss to the Crunch in Albany on Wednesday.
"Our energy, our compete-level, I was much more happy with it tonight," Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. "We forced them to turn the puck over a bit."
"We played a better game than last time, but I still don't think we were good enough," Albany defenseman Alexander Urbom said. "It's always tough to battle back when you get down all the time. We've just got to figure out a way to win the game."
The Devils trailed most of the matinee game, starting when the Crunch scored two goals in the span of 34 seconds midway through the first period. The second goal was scored by Tyler Johnson, the first of his three in the game. It was his first professional hat trick, said Syracuse coach Jon Cooper, and gave him 26 goals on the season to tie Jamie Tardif of Providence for the AHL lead.
The Crunch then had an answer for every Albany goal, usually from Johnson.
"They got some momentum out of all those goals," Albany centerman Jacob Josefson said. "Every time we scored, they'd score right away after. I think Keith made some good saves, too, in the second period when they got some good chances. We let up the first two goals a little too easy, I think. We'll just fix this and get back on track next game."
Trailing, 2-0, Josefson had a golden opportunity on a four-on-three power play. Eric Gelinas had sent a cross-ice pass to him from the left side, finding Josefson in the right circle waiting to bury the puck in a wide open net. But Syracuse goalie Cedric Desjardins slid over and reached out his glove to snap the puck out of midair.
It was a missed opportunity and a great save, but a minute or so later, Albany got on the board.
First, the first of two Syracuse penalties expired to make it four-on-four for a short time. As soon as the Albany penalty expired to make it five-on-four, Mike Sislo scored to cut the deficit in half.
“After that power play, we got some momentum,” Josefson said. “You want to score on those chances, but that stuff happens. You can't really think about it.”
Josefson had just been sent to Albany by New Jersey the previous day.
"I thought he got better as the game went on," Kowalsky said. "I thought he got a little more comfortable. He's a blue-collar type player. He's a guy that makes the players around him better."
"It took a period or two to get into it," Josefson said. "But in the end, I felt a little bit better.
"You get to play a bit more in more important situations [in the AHL]. I was killing some penalties up there [in the NHL], but I'll get to play some power play and play some more minutes, too, so that's good."
With Albany trailing, 4-2, and both teams with players in the penalty box, Kowalsky pulled Kinkaid for a five-on-four. Josefson pulled the Devils within a goal with a blast from the left circle at 18:28.
The penalties expired, and it took Albany a little while to get possession and pull Kinkaid again, but he made it off the ice with about 54 seconds to play, giving the Devils a six-on-five.
They moved the puck well around the outside and attacked from smart angles with passes that set up possible chances, but they just couldn't convert. In the end, Brett Connolly came up with the puck near the top of his own circle and sent the puck down the ice for an empty-netter to seal the game.
"You get the sense that you might get it," Kowalsky said of the final minute. "There have been times this year where, especially young guys, don't get a sense of how much time's on the clock and think you've just got to funnel it to the net. When a team gets in and gets set up, the defensive team kind of just gives you time. I thought we showed some good composure. On the very last one, we probably could have held on a little longer where we just threw it away. But for the most part, I mean, Gelinas had it three times up top and never shot it.
There's a good chance, up the middle, they're going to block it somewhere, because they get in layers. We moved it around and tried to attack from the goal line, and the one actually went up over Desjardins' shoulder there and almost popped in."
Instead, the Crunch, the same group of players who won 28 straight regular-season games last season as the Norfolk Admirals, won their fourth straight game after a stretch of tough losses.
"Our win-loss wasn't really indicative of how we were playing," Syracuse coach Jon Cooper said. "There were five games where we had 40-plus shots and the other team was in the 20s, and we lost four of them. So we're doing the right things. I think what happened was we would be pressing to score all the time, because we had that mentality where we wanted to win 6-5. Thinking, it's OK to win 2-1, 3-2, that's kind of how we have to play now, and guys bought in. It's been great."
The Devils completed a stretch of four games in six days. They will have Tuesday off before returning to prepare of their next game, Saturday at Binghamton.
"We've got four losses in a row now," Urbom said. "It's been a tough week, but we've got to rest a bit and bounce back."
"I think we're a little bit tired," Kowalsky said. "We had to skate Saturday with two afternoon games. Our last day off was after Binghamton on Monday [Feb. 11]. So we've gone at it a solid six days where we've been on the ice either playing or practicing. This time of year, rest is important, but you don't want to go into a bit of a layoff or a break like this under these circumstances. But I think [we'll get] a little bit of rest and just regroup here and respond next weekend."