Statistically, it’s just not supposed to happen. Teams that go into the third period without the lead rarely come out ahead.
With apologies to Jim Bouton, the Albany River Rats are telling those statistics to shut up.
Albany rallied for a 2-1 victory over East Division leader Philadelphia on Sunday at the Times Union Center by scoring twice in the third period, the winner going in off Jeff Hamilton’s leg with 66 seconds remaining.
The Rats (35-24-1-3) pushed their season-high winning streak to seven games, and strengthened their hold on second place in the East with 74 points. They trail the Phantoms (38-19-2-3) by seven and lead Hershey, a 6-1 loser in Toronto on Sunday, by four.
“We don’t want to get too too far ahead, but we’re very proud of them,” head coach-GM Tom Rowe said. “They got 12 points in two weekends, which is incredible. I know that’s the best I’ve had, as far as coaching in the seven years I’ve been doing this. It was a great weekend. We just can’t say enough.”
It was the second consecutive three-game weekend sweep for Albany, which has taken three of four games at home from Philadelphia this season.
Clad in special red and yellow sweaters for Sunday’s postgame auction, the Rats came from behind for the second straight night in the final 20 minutes. They beat Worcester, 3-2, in a shootout on Saturday, erasing a 2-0 deficit.
Albany is now 4-17-0-1 when trailing after two periods. The Phantoms had been 24-0 when taking a lead into the third.
“We’re showing character, right now,” Hamilton said. “When you get on a roll like this, you have a tendency to get complacent, and expect to win every night. At the same time, you can’t just go through the motions and expect to win. That’s a good team. Philadelphia is in first place for a reason. There’s no shame being down, 1-0, to those guys. We just kept plugging away.”
Philadelphia captain Boyd Kane chipped a loose puck over goalie Mike Leighton from behind the net with 8:02 left in the first period for a 1-0 lead. Nearly 32 minutes went by before Albany’s Casey Borer tied it up 3:51 into the third.
Newcomer Kyle McLeod won a faceoff in the left circle cleanly back to Borer, who skated a step to his right and cranked a slap shot low past the glove of goalie Scott Munroe.
“[Assistant coach] Geordie [Kinnear] works with our ‘D’ literally every day on point shots and movement,” Rowe said. “Seventy-five percent of goals are scored from point shots off rebounds and tips and screens. You’re crazy if you don’t crowd the net, and look for some rebounds.”
Both goalies, who rank 1-2 in the AHL in save percentage, made some big saves to keep the game tied and headed to overtime before Albany got a good bounce on the winner.
Defenseman Joey Mormina got the puck from Cohoes native Marc Cavosie at the blue line, and fired a slap-pass to Hamilton near the left post. The airborne puck caromed off Hamilton’s shin pad and past Munroe.
“I saw the guy diving in front of me and I heard [Hamilton],” Mormina said. “I just wanted to get it over to him. It was a little too high, but he made the most of it. That’s why he’s got tons of goals and tons of points.”
It was Hamilton’s 113th AHL goal, and first since March 18, 2006.
Sunday’s game-worn sweater auction raised $22,995 for Ronald McDonald House, which was $7,370 more than last year’s
inaugural event. The topper of $1,500 went for Leighton’s No. 29.
Philadelphia 1 0 0 — 1
Albany 0 0 2 — 2
First period — 1, Philadelphia, Kane 14 (Ross, Zingoni), 11:58. Penalties — Powe, Phi major (fighting), 11:07; Angelidis, Alb major (fighting), 11:07; Matsumoto, Phi (holding), 18:52.
Second period — None. Penalties — Fitzpatrick, Phi (cross-checking), 13:31.
Third period — 3, Albany, Borer 6 (McLeod), 3:51. 4, Albany, Hamilton 1 (Mormina, Cavosie), 18:54. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — Philadelphia 13-12-5 — 30. Albany 11-11-7 — 29.
Goalies — Philadelphia, Munroe 15-5-0-2 (29 shots-27 saves). Albany, Leighton 22-19-1-3 (30-29).
Power-play opportunities — Philadelphia 0 of 0. Albany 0 of 2.
A — 3,607. T — 2:11.
Referee — Jeff Smith. Linesmen — Mike Emanatian, Jim Harper.