Devils win consecutive games for first time this season
It's a first for the season.
It took 19 games for the Albany Devils to win two in a row, but a 3-1 win over Bridgeport on Saturday got it done.
The first half of that winning streak happened in Glens Falls last Sunday over Adirondack.
"They were two weeks apart, it felt like. It was a long week," Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said after the Bridgeport win. "It was good. Anytime you sit around that long, you worry about whether you'll forget what happened the week before, good or bad. But we had a good week of practice, and it seemed to get better every day. We really spent a lot of time revisiting our systems. Tonight, defensively, through the neutral zone, we did a lot of stuff well that we had talked about that needed to be corrected."
Not having a game on Friday prolonged the practice week and helped inject a little anxious energy into the Devils. They were racing around without running around for much of the game, producing several good rushes and a few near breakouts. Their forecheck was strong, and their sticks handy on defense.
"We had a long week of practice, but we did a good job of channeling our energy and using it throughout the whole game and not just coming out fast and slowing down," Gionta said. "We kept a good pace all night, and that helped us with the victory."
"We had a lot of practice, a full week, so guys get excited to play," Wiseman said. "Sometimes, when you're playing a lot of games, you get mentally tired, physically tired. So we had a lot of time to prepare, which is nice. I thought the guys had a great week of practice, and it showed tonight."
Some of their energy may also come from the return of former captain Stephen Gionta, who signed an AHL deal with the club earlier in the week and wore the 'A' on his jersey Saturday night.
"He said his legs were heavy, but they didn't look heavy to me," Kowalsky said. "He's like a little roadrunner out there. He's energy, he's smart, he's a big boost to our penalty kill. I talked about how Adam Henrique plays a lot of minutes in those situations, and now Gio will fill that side, defensively. He struggled, maybe, on some big draws, but that's probably because he hasn't taken a lot. But I thought he was good. He had some good chances, a short-handed chance. Him and Wiseman made a tic-tac-toe play from behind the net that led to another one. He'll fit in nicely."
"It felt good. I just tried keeping it simple tonight, getting my game legs under me," Gionta said. "I thought we had a good one tonight."
Gionta got his legs under him well enough to skate into a few scoring chances. Soon, he hopes to knock the little bit of rust off his game and finish.
"Yeah, I felt a little awkward skating and trying to handle the puck at the same time," he said. "Hopefully, next game, I can be a little bit better handling the puck and maybe capitalizing on those chances."
Other Devils finished, though, starting with Joe Whitney's third goal of the season at 12:37 of the first period. He was skating across the slot with a defenseman on his hip when Albany's Adam Larsson sent a shot low and slow from the right point. Whitney deflected it past Bridgeport goalie Anders Nilsson for the 1-0 lead.
At 4:42 of the second period, the Devils on their second five-on-three power play of the night, Chad Wiseman sent a slick pass from the right circle across to Bobby Butler, waiting low in the left circle with a heafty one-timer.
"Any time you can penetrate their diamond ... the five-on-three, you want their goalie to move," Wiseman said. "Any time you can get passes through the box for one-timers, it makes it that much harder for them to stop, especially when you're passing to a guy like Butler, with his one-timer.
"We struggled early in the year, and we haven't been amazing lately, but we've been getting real good looks on the power play the last five or six games. I think it was St. John's, we had a few power-play goals. It's just getting pucks to the net. We had a couple five-on-threes, which is nice. You get one, build some confidence, and hopefully build on that for tomorrow's game."
Butler wears the No. 11 jersey that used to hang on the shoulders of Gionta, and Wiseman has played much of the past couple years with Gionta. He said it was a little different seeing Gionta in the No. 22 jersey. He joked that when he passed across the ice to Butler, he wasn't mistaking him for his old teammate.
"I know Butler's going to score from there," he said. "Gio, I don't know."
The Devils' first five-on-three power play lasted 1:35 and there were 25 seconds of five-on-four on either end of that. In all that time, they managed one shot on goal.
"You've got to hit the net," Kowalsky said. "[Defenseman] Eric Gelinas hasn't played in a while, only a couple games, but that should be his forte. He's got to hit the net there, and if there isn't a shooting lane, move the puck low and back high and create one. The second one was a great play by Wiseman and Butler. That's kind of his spot over there. He can get it off quick wherever he gets it. We actually have been using him up top, but we made the adjustment to put him down low, and it paid off."
That one shot on net came off the stick of Mattias Tedenby at 3:16 in the first period, from about the same spot Butler scored from in the second period. Tedenby's shot flew behind Nilsson and many in the crowd and press area figured it bounced off the right side netting when it was seen bouncing back out toward Tedenby, but the officials reviewed it from the overhead camera angle and denied the Devils the goal.
"I've just come to terms with just accepting decisions. ... Apparently, it went off the back of the goalie's pants," Kowalsky said. "The guys on the ice have a better feel. Tedenby, I think, just thought it was in, no matter what. Nobody else really made a stink about it, so I figured it wasn't in."
Then at 11:31, Wiseman was on a two-on-one rush with Mattias Tedenby, who shot from the right of the slot. Tedenby's shot rang off the left post and right to Wiseman for the finish and a 3-0 lead.
"I thought he made the right play," Wiseman said. "He made a great shot, he beat the goalie, it's just the net wasn't big enough for him. It's never a bad shot on a two-on-one. If that hits his pad or a post, it's coming right out to me, so it's a good shot."
Gionta centered the line with Wiseman and Tedenby and picked up the second assist on the goal.
"I thought our line played pretty well," Wiesman said. "There were a lot of power plays and penalty kills, so we got split up quite a bit, but G and I are real familiar with each other. We played pretty much the last 2 1/2 years together. I thought we played real strong, and hopefully, we'll be together tomorrow."
Sunday, the Devils will travel to play at Connecticut at 3 p.m., another divisional game. This weekend was set up to be a good weekend for Albany, featuring two divisional opponents and an extra day to prepare for them.
"It's huge to start out the weekend right and get the two points with a divisional opponent," Gionta said. "I thought we did a good job getting the puck in and staying on them and getting the result."
The Devils lost defenseman and captain Jay Leach in the first period to an unspecified lower-body injury.
"He got hit. Lower body," Kowalsky said. "Right now, I don't know the status. Definitely not tomorrow. We'll have to get an update."
That was just the start of the D woes, though. In the third period, centerman Jacob Josefson took a major boarding penalty, sparking a scrum in which three or four Sound Tigers mobbed Albany D Adam Larsson. Larsson, in the midst of it all, took a misconduct penalty, putting the Devils down to four defensemen for 10 minutes in the third.
Still, the defensemen were solid Saturday, especially on the penalty kill. They were quick and focused with their sticks, deflecting those dangerous crossing passes of the Sound Tigers and keeping them away from Albany goalie Keith Kinkaid most of the time.
"Big bodies with big reaches," Kowalsky said. "They were tired. We lost Leach in the first period, so we had five D. You get into penalty trouble, you get hemmed into your end, then you lose Larsson for 10 minutes. So, they battled hard. Dan Kelly hasn't played in two weeks, and he made some mistakes that he wouldn't normally make, but he's always going to give you 100 percent and play hard. McPherson, Urbom ... again Geli's a guy that hasn't played a lot of hockey. They're all big bodies that sometimes just get in the way, and we talk about being tough to play against. I thought they did a good job of that tonight."
Keeping the Sound Tigers scoreless on the PP is a bit of an accomplishment, as they entered the night third in the league with the advantage. They were 0-for-4 Saturday, putting them at 22-for-102 on the season (21.6 percent).