Quick start lifts Albany over Adirondack, 5-2
The quick turnaround from Friday night's game in Glens Falls to Saturday's 2 p.m. start in Albany didn't seem to matter much to the Devils. The six games and one scrimmage in 11 days, sure, but that fatigue didn't set in until after the first intermission, and even then, wasn't so apparent.
Not as apparent as whatever was hampering the Adirondack Phantoms in the first period, when the Devils took a 3-0 lead en route to a 5-2 win, taking advantage of sloppy and tired-looking play by the Phantoms.
"They came out with good jump, no question," said Adirondack coach Terry Murray. "They got it going right away. I think that we made some mistakes. They're a good team, and they capitalized on the turnovers and on the low coverage that was not good. We were getting beat from the boards to the front of the net. They had people in position on the first goal with the point shot, then just beat us to the net off of other plays. Our reads were not good, and we were not ready to play."
"I thought we had a pretty good start," Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. "They did not start well. I didn't think either team played well tonight, but I did think we took advantage of their poor start. I thought the first period was probably our best, and after that, we kind of just let them hang around. It was kind of like we were just getting through the game. That insurance goal by [Harri] Pesonen was big. But we'll take the win. Two points is two points, right?"
Albany got on the board at 4:02 in the first period as left wing Joe Whitney skated the puck into the zone, then behind the net, sending a pass to defenseman Eric Gelinas at the left point. Gelinas ripped a low shot goalward, and centerman Steve Zalewski deflected it over goalie Scott Munroe's shoulder into the top right corner of the goal.
"It was kind of a flipper puck," Gelinas said, "it was on edge when I shot it. It stayed low, thank God, and it managed its way through."
For Whitney, it was his eighth point (5-3-8) in six games against Adirondack this season. The Devils have won whenever he has hit the scoresheet against the Phantoms.
The Devils got another scored at 10:55 when centerman Phil DeSimone sent the puck from low on the left side out to the right point, where defenseman Brandon Burlon one-timed it. Munroe stopped the shot, but he couldn't control the short rebound and Pesonen was there to tuck it away.
"Definitely, the first period was great energy by us," said Pesonen, a rookie from Finland. We didn't give them anything, but we didn't kill them completely, so we had to battle the next two periods.
"I think we did a good job [Friday] at Adirondack, and we kept doing the same thing today. It's hard to defend when you take shots and guys go to the rebounds and try to bury it. The last two days, we did a good job on that."
AHL All-Star Bobby Butler put the Devils up, 3-0, at 14:30 when he finished a rebound of a Tim Sestito shot. Butler will play in the All-Star Game in Providence on Monday. He was voted into the starting lineup.
"We came out strong, and I think that really helped us," Gelinas said. "They played last night as much as we did. It was nice to get the momentum going for us in the first.
"I think we managed the puck pretty well, and I think that probably got them to step back a little bit. We were cycling the puck well, we got the puck deep, so I think that really helped for the first period."
After the first intermission, though, the Phantoms started playing with a little more intent. It still took them half of the second period to get past Albany goalie Keith Kinkaid.
It took a power-play goal from Marcel Noebels to get Adirondack on the board, and it came at 12:11, just 22 seconds into an interference penalty whistled on Albany defenseman Jay Leach.
Pesonen pushed the lead back to three goals at 4:07. Adirondack's Harry Zolnierczyk was put away for unsportsmanlike conduct at 3:54, then Jason Akeson turned the puck over behind his own net to Phil DeSimone, who touched it out to Pesonen, who stuffed it home at the right edge of the crease.
"He has a tendency in those games where he has the puck a lot, he can protect it," Kowalsky said of Pesonen. "Sometimes it seems like he has it a lot because he has the tendency to bring it back, which I don't care for. But he's a strong guy, he's strong on the puck, and both those goals are the goals I like to see from him, because he can get in behind the defenders.
"One, he picks up a rebound, he's strong on his feet with a guy on him, and the second one, he just jams it to the net. We need to see more of that out of him. The more he plays that North-South instead of that – which they probably played a lot of in Finland – that East-West stuff, he's going to be fine because he can skate and he's strong."
The Phantoms got one goal back at 6:30 in the third on another power play, this score coming from Danny Syvret. Albany went back up by three with just over 12 seconds remaining when Sestito chased down a loose puck near an empty Adirondack net and kept it away from a Phantom on his hip, tapping it goalward near the left post. It was waiting out front for Darcy Zajac to finish the job with a short-handed empty-netter.
Though the Devils looked a little weary through the last two periods, they still maintained enough momentum to keep the lead and the win safe.
"It's easy to just sit down and start watching the other team play," Pesonen said. "We kind of did that a little bit, but not too bad. Like I said, two points stayed here. I think we want the Time Warner Cup."
In the Time Warner Cup standings, the Devils now have 13 points to the Phantoms' six with four games left between them. Albany is 6-1-0-1 against the Phantoms.
The Albany Devils played their 5-2 win Saturday in front of an announced 10,218 fans, the largest at the Times Union Center since the Devils moved their AHL team there from Lowell, Mass., and the largest for any AHL hockey game in the building since Feb. 27, 1999, when the River Rats were in town.
"It gets us going," Gelinas said. "The crowd's behind us, they were pretty loud, and it was actually fun to play in front of a big crowd like that. It's fun to have them here."
Pesonen, the game's first star, applauded the crowd as he skated back out on the ice after the game.
"You've got to give them credit," he said. "They create the atmosphere. Every time you hit or make a good play or score a goal, the crowd enjoys that, and it was nice to see there were lots of happy faces in the crowd."