A solid first playoff effort was spoiled with 23.1 seconds left.
Just after a sequence that resulted in Albany goalie Keith Kinkaid losing his stick, the puck flew out to the point, where St. John’s defenseman Ben Chiarot slung the game-winner goalward with a flutter. The puck knuckled a bit on its way to Kinkaid and got past him for a 2-1 IceCaps win over the Devils in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Playoffs first-round series.
“It was just a routine dump-in and the puck jumped a little,” Kinkaid said. “I didn’t corral it enough, I tried to jump out, and my stick got hit out of my hands. It’s a play I should have made.”
With his head down a little, he said he feels he owes his team a bounce-back performance when the Devils host the IceCaps in Game 2 tonight at 7 in the Times Union Center, where the Devils won 24 regular-season games. Asked if it will be easy to put this game behind him, he looked up with a smile.
It was a game the Devils shouldn’t forget too soon, though, as they threw a forecheck at the IceCaps that pulled momentum in their favor for much of the second and third periods. Defenseman Dan Kelly and centerman Tim Sestito were the most active checking Devils, Sestito bringing some jump to his linemates Joe Whitney and Mike Sislo.
“It’s a huge boost, the energy that he brings,” Whitney said. “It opens up a lot of room for myself and Sis. We’ve just got to keep doing that.”
The IceCaps scored in the first period after a turnover behind the Devils’ net ended up on the stick of former River Rat Jerome Samson. He got it out front to Eric O’Dell, who sent it through the five-hole.
Albany answered in the second on a power play, Whitney notching his first playoff goal from the right circle.
“It was a big boost to get on the board,” he said. “We talked about special teams, it’s going to be important throughout the playoffs. It was nice to execute and capitalize on one to give us some momentum there.”
Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said he saw a little nervousness early, but the Devils shook free of it quickly.
“I thought, for the most part, guys were dialed in,” he said. “We were focused. We certainly got better as the game wore on, and that’s a good sign. The bench, the room, you could hear guys talking on the ice. For the first time out for a lot of these guys, it was a good showing.”
The Devils came into this series without many playoff minutes between them and with no experience against the IceCaps this season. Whitney said, though, Friday’s 60 minutes gave them a good feel for postseason play.
“It was a good pace out there,” he said. “Obviously, we hadn’t seen those guys yet, this was the first time, so a little bit of feeling out. We know what we’re in for, and they know what they’re in for [tonight].”
St. John’s 1 0 1 — 2
Albany 0 1 0 — 1
First Period — 1, St. John’s O’Dell 1 (Samson), 4:29. Penalties — Albert, StJ (embellishment), 3:47; McPherson, Alb (tripping), 3:47; Sestito, Alb (elbowing), 15:45; Mouillierat, StJ (hooking), 15:57.
Second Period — 2, Albany, Whitney 1 (Merrill, Sislo), 2:13 (pp). Penalties — Fredheim, StJ (delay of game), 1:05; Larsson, Alb (holding), 6:12; Timmins, Alb (slashing), 11:02; Pelley, Alb (slashing), 16:33.
Third Period — 3, St. John’s, Chiarot 1 (Redmond, Gordon), 19:36. Penalties — Cormier, StJ (embellishment), 9:50; Kelly, Alb (roughing), 9:50.
Shots on goal — St. John’s 14-10-8 — 32. Albany 10-12-4 — 26.
Power-play opportunities — St. John’s 0 of 4; Albany 1 of 2.
Goalies — St. John’s, Hutchinson 1-0 (26 shots-25 saves). Albany, Kinkaid 0-1 (32-30).
A — 6,572. T — 2:19.
Referee — Mark Lemelin, Chris Brown. Linesmen — Frank Murphy, Francis Trempe.