Wearing much smaller gloves than the goalies, Albany rookie Joe Whitney saved the game Wednesday with a quick catch near the blue line.
The Devils had squandered a
5-1 second-period lead, allowing the
tying goal at 5:01 of the third. Then after losing the puck in the Worcester zone, Whitney backed out toward
the blue line and was perfectly
positioned when a defenseman tried to clear it about waist-high.
Well, about chest high for the
5-foot-6 Whitney, who caught it atop the right circle and dropped it for himself, skating through the slot to the left. He dished it back
toward the bottom of the right circle for Vladimir Zharkov, who fired goalward and watched the puck carom off goalie Harri Sateri’s pad and into the net.
The Devils held on with renewed defensive intensity to beat the Sharks, 6-5.
“I’m surprised they didn’t get it over my head,” said Whitney, who finished with three assists. “I picked it right off. Everybody was coming up ice, so I went the other way quick. They didn’t have time to react. I saw Zharky out of the corner of my eye, and he did a good job of burying that one.”
The Devils and Sharks are tied for ninth in the conference, a point behind eighth-place Syracuse.
Albany went up, 5-1, 27 seconds into the second period on Brad Mills’ second power-play goal of the game. Mills also had an assist in the first period. The Devils went 3-for-5 on the power play.
The Sharks were 2-for-3 with the advantage, and they benefitted from some poor decisions by the Devils. The tying tally came during what should have been a Devils power play, as Nick Petrecki was whistled for boarding on a hit on Jean-Sebastien Berube at 3:45 in the third. But Myles Stoesz, who had a banner game until this point with his first AHL goal in nearly two years, responded with a roughing penalty. Three seconds later, Tim Sestito was called for slashing and picked up a misconduct for abusing the officials.
“I get the sense, a little bit after the first, that we thought it was
going to be easy. And to tell the truth, it should have been after you get up like that,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “But Myles’ penalty, then Timmy not only takes a two, he takes a 10. He’s an important guy, a defensive guy, a penalty killer. To lose him for 12 minutes is not smart.”
Playing with a four-on-three advantage, Worcester found the equalizer on John McCarthy’s shot from above the right circle. Goalie Jeff Frazee was in position and got a piece of the puck, but couldn’t keep it from the net.
After that, Kowalsky said he felt both teams played cautious because of the importance of the points on the line. Then came Whitney’s goal at 14:24, and Kowalsky asked his team for a few more good minutes.
“We picked up our intensity. There was more desperation in battles,” he said. “It was good to see. You could sense it on the bench. I shortened the bench a little bit and went with my older guys. … I said on the bench, ‘This has to be the hardest-fought five and a half minutes for us.’ ”
Worcester 1 3 1 — 5
Albany 4 1 1 — 6
First Period — 1, Albany, Mills 5 (Tedenby, Whitney), 3:09 (pp). 2, Albany, Gionta 4 (Mills, Hoeffel), 7:03. 3, Albany, Stoesz 1 (Burlon, Berube), 8:58. 4, Worcester, Irwin 9 (Kennedy, Lucia), 10:11. 5, Albany, Sestito 8 (Zharkov, Harrold), 13:42 (pp). Penalties — Viedensky, Wor (interference), 2:33; McLaren, Wor, major (fighting), 9:06; Stoesz, Alb, major (fighting), 9:06; Mashinter, Wor, minor-major (roughing, fighting), 9:44; Gelinas, Alb, minor-major (cross-checking, fighting), 9:44; Pelech, Wor (tripping), 13:20; Pelech, Wor, major (fighting), 17:40; Young, Alb, major (fighting), 17:40; Del Monte, Wor (slashing), 18:32.
Second Period — 6, Albany, Mills 6 (Whitney, Zalewski), :27 (pp). 7, Worcester, O’Hanley 3 (Lucia, Doherty), 3:36. 8, Worcester, Kennedy 11 (McCarthy, Irwin), 14:35 (pp). 9, Worcester, Combs 15 (Del Monte) 19:12. Penalties — Irwin, Wor (high-sticking), 7:09; Doherty, Wor (roughing), 13:33; Stoesz, Alb (roughing), 13:33; Harrold, Alb (holding the stick), 14:19; O’Hanley, Wor (slashing), 16:19.
Third Period — 10, Worcester, McCarthy 17 (Kennedy, Moon), 5:01 (pp). 11, Albany, Zharkov 14 (Whitney, Anderson), 14:24. Penalties — Petrecki, Wor (boarding), 3:45; Stoesz, Alb (roughing), 3:45; Sestito, Alb, minor-misconduct (slashing), 3:48; Gionta, Alb (tripping), 7:21.
Shots on goal — Worcester 7-11-10 — 28. Albany 16-17-13 — 46.
Power-play opportunities — Worcester 2 of 3; Albany 3 of 5.
Goalies — Worcester, Sateri 12-13-0
(46 shots-40 saves); Heemskerk (18:27 third, 0-0). Albany, Kinkaid (18-14); Frazee 11-16-2 (:00 third, 10-9).
A — 2,233. T — 2:32.
Referees — Keith Kaval, Chris Brown. Linesmen — Mike Emanatian, Frank Murphy.