Albany Devils still in AHL playoff hunt

The Albany Devils defeat the Syracuse Crunch, 6-2, to keep playoff hopes alive
Albany Devils Seth Helgeson (2) shoots against Syracuse Crunch's (82) during a hockey game at the Times Union Center in Albany on Wednesday, April 15, 2015.
Albany Devils Seth Helgeson (2) shoots against Syracuse Crunch's (82) during a hockey game at the Times Union Center in Albany on Wednesday, April 15, 2015.

The Albany Devils lived to fight — for their playoff lives — another day.

Led by a goal and four assists from Matt Lorito and two goals and an assist from Joe Whitney, Albany beat the Syracuse Crunch, 6-2, Wednesday night at the Times Union Center, staving off elimination from the playoff chase at least until Friday.

“Moving on to Friday,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “We did what we needed to do tonight. Next.”

Albany is two points behind eighth-place Portland and ninth-place Springfield, though Portland has a game in hand. The Devils have two games remaining — Friday night at

7 p.m. at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Saturday at home against Hartford at 5.

Syracuse entered the night 6-1-0-0 against Albany this season, and got on the board first with Yanni Gourde’s goal 3:41 into the first period. Whitney drew the Devils even at 16:51 on a rush from the left circle. It was a pass from Lorito that found him at the Syracuse blue line with room to maneuver.

“I was just trying to make plays all over the ice and get on the puck as much as I can,” said Lorito, whose five points tied him with three other Devils for the franchise record for points in a game. “Tonight, it was just one of those games where anyone I passed to seemed to score.”

Whitney assisted on Seth Helgeson’s tally at 1:03 in the third period, opening the floodgates for a five-goal period.

“I thought we were playing well. It’s nice to see the puck go in the net, the power play had a little bit of success, the guys fed off it and we took over in the third,” Whitney said. “We’ll hopefully carry that momentum into Friday.”

The eventual game-winning goal came just 54 seconds after Helgeson’s tally when Ben Thomson intercepted a Syracuse clearance attempt in the Crunch zone and rifled it

past goalie Kristers Gudlevskis.

Whitney’s power-play goal at 7:33 gave him 22 goals on the season. With 34 assists, he leads the team _ and has each of his four seasons — in points (56).

Albany goalie Scott Clemmensen made a few key saves in the second period to keep the game tied, 1-1, including on a breakaway by Syracuse centerman Cody Kunyk. Another time, with Clemmensen recovering and the net open behind him, Crunch winger Jonathan Marchessault missed a golden opportunity to retake the lead.

“We didn’t move the puck out,” Kowalsky said. “I thought they had better legs and upped their physical game. We were chasing most of that period. We talked about it after the second. Not only is it a frustrating game when you play that way or you don’t have the puck, it’s tiring.”

Getting a big win, not only to keep their playoff hopes alive, but also doing it against a team that had beaten the Devils six of seven times this season was satisfying, Whitney said.

“We talked about it before the game, how much they’ve handed it to us in their building a couple of times, we’ve had battles that have gone down to the wire, there’s been penalty minutes and those sorts of things,” he said.

“It was nice to get them in our building with the season on the line, put up a good amount of goals and play strong defensively. It feels good, and it’s a good feeling in the room.”

Syracuse 1 0 1 — 2

Albany 1 0 5 — 6

First Period – 1, Syracuse, Gourde 28, 3:41. 2, Albany, Whitney 21 (Lorito, Scarlett), 16:51. Penalties – Broll, Syr, major (fighting), 1:57; Janssen, Alb, major (fighting), 1:57; Ikonen, Syr (roughing), 15:45; Thompson, Alb (roughing), 15:45.

Second Period – None. Penalties – None.

Third Period – 3, Albany, Helgeson 2 (Whitney, Lorito), 1:03. 4, Albany, Thomson 8, 1:57. 5, Albany, Whitney 22 (Burlon, Lorito), 7:33 (pp). 6, Albany, Lorito 3 (Sislo, Scarlett), 13:30 (pp). 7, Albany, Matteau 11 (Lorito), 16:16. 8, Syracuse, Richard 13 (Ashton), 18:52 (pp). Penalties – Kunyk, Syr (tripping), 6:23; Courtnall, Syr (interference), 12:59; Dodero, Syr (roughing), 17:39; Dotchin, Syr, major (fighting), 17:39; Matteau, Alb, major (fighting), 17:39; Wohlberg, Alb, double-minor (roughing, elbowing), 17:39.

Shots on goal – Syracuse 7-11-10 – 28. Albany 8-8-8 – 24.

Power-play opportunities – Syracuse 1 of 1; Albany 2 of 2.

Goalies – Syracuse, Gudlevskis 25-14-3 (24 shots-18 saves). Albany, Clemmensen 10-11-2 (28-26).

A – 2,746. T – 2:15.

Referee – Geno Binda, Ryan Hersey. Linesmen – Frank Murphy, Francis Trempe.

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