Having ended 2007 on a high note with back-to-back wins against first-place teams, the Albany River Rats began the new year with a deafening thud.
Syracuse handed the Rats a thorough beating Friday night at the Times Union Center, 6-1, getting a hat trick from Gilbert Brule and 33 saves from Karl Goehring.
Mark Flood had the lone goal for Albany (20-16-0-2), a power-play tally with 16.4 seconds left in the second period to make it a 3-1 game.
The Crunch (18-19-1-1), who have won the last three games of the season series, scored three times in the third period, twice on the power play, the latter by Aaron Rome with 15.9 seconds remaining.
“We were horse[bleep],” Albany head coach-GM Tom Rowe said. “They know they were horse[bleep]. It’s as simple as that. From goaltending right on out, it was horse[bleep]. No compete, no systems, no nothing.
“I’m the first guy to pat these guys on the back when we do great, but it’s pretty hard to find anything good tonight. We were awful. They should be embarrassed.”
It was the Rats’ first game since losing captain Keith Aucoin, leading goal scorer Brandon Nolan and No. 1
goaltender Michael Leighton on recall to the Carolina Hurricanes. They left on Thursday, two days after their top defenseman, Casey Borer, was promoted.
“They looked around the locker room and they didn’t see Aucoin, they didn’t see Leighton, they didn’t see Nolan, they didn’t see Casey Borer and they let it affect them,” Rowe said. “It was disgusting. We didn’t compete for one [expletive] shift.”
Kevin Nastiuk was playing his first AHL game since being hurt in the first period at Lowell Nov. 23. He finished with 22 saves.
“You can’t say anything,” defenseman and alternate captain Tim Conboy said. “We just didn’t play well enough to win or even be in the game. We’ve got a lot of soul-searching to do to bounce back for [tonight]. Anytime you play a game like that, you want to get right back after it to redeem yourself a bit.”
In his second game since being sent down by the Columbus Blue Jackets, Brule opened the scoring 3:22 into the game. Adam Pineault added a soft goal at 18:44 that caught Nastiuk coming across.
Pineault made it 3-0 7:19 into the second period. Brule scored twice in a span of 1:59 before the third period was six minutes old to complete his hat trick.
“Obviously, we lost some key guys, but that’s a situation where some other guys in this locker room need to step up,” veteran winger David Gove said. “There’s a lot of onus on certain guys, including myself, to fill those roles, and tonight we laid an egg.
“It’s not like it’s anything new. In the beginning of the year, we lost [Aucoin] and [Ryan] Bayda for a while and we played great. Guys come through that door every day, so it’s certainly not the reason for the way we played tonight. The effort just wasn’t there.”
Syracuse 2 1 3 — 6
Albany 0 1 0 — 1
First period — 1, Syracuse, Brule 1 (Sestito, Konopka), 3:22. 2, Syracuse, Pineault 8 (Brassard, Mackenzie), 18:44. Penalties — Forrest, Alb (hooking), 5:54; Petruzalek, Alb (tripping), 9:45.
Second period — 3, Syracuse, Pineault 9, 7:19. 4, Albany, Flood 6 (Petruzalek, Tifu), 19:43 (pp). Penalties — Brassard, Syr (hooking), 11:25; Motherwell, Syr (tripping), 19:26.
Third period — 5, Syracuse, Brule 2 (Sestito, Konopka), 3:34. 6, Syracuse, Brule 3 (Wilson, Brassard), 5:33 (pp). 7, Syracuse, Rome 5 (Frischmon), 19:44 (pp). Penalties — Goertzen, Syr major (fighting), 4:33; Rechlicz, Alb minor-major (charging, figbhting, served by Tifu), 4:33; Petruzalek, Alb (goaltender interference), 7:35; Pineault, Syr (hooking), 11:21; Petruzalek, Alb (tripping), 17:58; Konopka, Syr (roughing), 18:38; Conboy, Alb (roughing), 18:38.
Shots on goal — Syracuse 8-11-9 — 28. Albany 12-9-13 — 34.
Goalies — Syracuse, Goehring 4-5 (34 shots-33 saves). Albany, Nastiuk 4-1 (28-22).
Power-play opportunities — Syracuse 2 of 5. Albany 1 of 3.
A — 3,348. T — 2:10.
Referee — Dean Morton. Linesmen — Mike Emanatian, Frank Murphy.