After the shootout regulars had had their fun, Saturday’s game rested on the shoulders of the irregulars.
Having played to a 1-1 deadlock through 65 minutes of hockey, it took 11 rounds for Springfield to separate itself from Albany by a 4-3 shootout tally. In the ninth round, Devils rookie defenseman Eric Gelinas forced a 10th with his rocket through the glove of goalie Manny Legace. In the 11th round, Falcons defenseman Brett Lebda beat goalie Jeff Frazee for the eventual winner.
“I was calling guys, and they were looking stunned, like they didn’t want to go,” Springfield coach Rob Riley said. “That was the problem. Lebda said, ‘Don’t ever do that to me again,’ and he had one of our goals. You kind of run out pretty quick when you get to 10 or 11 [rounds].”
Albany defenseman Peter Harrold had the shot at extending it to a 12th round, but Legace gloved the puck to secure the two standings points.
Devils coach Rick Kowalsky said his usual list of shootout go-to guys runs about five deep with the personnel on the ice Saturday.
“You get to see some — Gelinas, he’s a guy we haven’t thought about [in shootouts] — and he scores,” he said. “You go a little bit with how guys are playing, but your preliminary list, depending on who’s in the lineup, probably isn’t too much deeper than five to seven, anyways.”
Springfield got on the board in the second period when Cody Bass skated the puck up the right boards on a rush and fed Cam Atkinson streaking down the crease. He tapped the puck past Frazee to the left side for a 1-0 lead at 9:12.
Albany’s Darcy Zajac evened the score at 4:11 in the third, just one second before the end of a power play. He said he and his teammates knew they had about just nine seconds left before the faceoff that set up the goal. They won the faceoff, and Vladimir Zharkov found room for a heavy slapshot, which Legace saved. Zajac was on hand to tuck it away, though.
“It wasn’t anything planned, just a typical ‘win the faceoff, go to the net,’ ” Zajac said. “He got the shot through someone’s legs, the rebound came out, and I just kind of batted it home.”
Zharkov nearly ended the game in the shootout, when his eighth-round attempt was stopped on the right side by Legace. Legace slid back into the goal, but the puck stopped about two inches from the line.
The Devils got their shootout tallies in the first (Chad Wiseman), third (Matt Anderson) and ninth (Gelinas) rounds. Springfield, shooting first, scored in the first (Atkinson), fifth (Maksim Mayorov), ninth (Ryan Garlock) and 11th (Lebda) rounds.
Last season, shootouts were a sore point for Frazee (1-3, .524 save percentage), but he worked well through this one despite a leg cramp that came on while trying to save Garlock’s shot in the ninth round.
“I worked with [coaches] Jacques Caron and Chris Terreri over the summer. They helped me out and gave me a few pointers,” Frazee said. “I still need to get a little better, a little more patient, but it’s coming. We had our chances tonight. Unfortunately, we didn’t get it done.”
Springfield 0 1 0 0 — 2
Albany 0 0 1 0 — 1
Albany won shootout, 4-3
First Period — No scoring. Penalties — Young, Alb (cross-checking), :54; Harrold, Alb (delay of game), 1:05; Savard, Spr (interference), 1:45; Garlock, Spr, major (fighting), 5:02; Zajac, Alb, major (fighting), 5:02; Giroux, Spr (tripping), 9:18; Atkinson, Spr (slashing), 15:13; Giroux, Spr (goaltender interference), 17:46.
Second Period — 1, Springfield, Atkinson 14 (Bass, Calvert), 9:12. Penalties — Young, Alb (hooking), 10:33.
Third Period — 2, Albany, Zajac 6 (Zharkov, Harrold), 4:11 (pp). Penalties — Cullity, Spr (tripping), 2:12; Palmieri, Alb (tripping), 6:17; Mills, Alb (boarding), 10:20; Savard, Spr (roughing), 11:25; Palmieri, Alb (interference), 12:49.
Overtime — No scoring. Penalties — None.
Shootout — Springfield 4 (Atkinson G, Calvert NG, Giroux NG, St. Pierre NG, Mayorov G, Regner NG, Kubalik NG, Russell NG, Garlock G, Bass NG, Lebda G). Albany 3 (Wiseman G, Sislo NG, Anderson G, Zalewski NG, Gionta NG, Palmieri NG, Mills NG, Zharkov NG, Gelinas G, Zajac NG, Harrold NG).
Shots on goal — Springfield 7-13-5-1-1 — 27. Albany 11-9-6-1-0 — 27.
Power-play opportunities — Springfield 0 of 5; Albany 1 of 6.
Goalies — Springfield, Legace 6-9-0 (27 shots-26 saves); Albany, Frazee 4-8-2 (26-25).
A — 3,455. T — 2:15.
Referee — Terry Koharski. Linesmen — Frank Murphy, Chris Low.