David Leggio might know Albany centerman Steve Zalewski a little too well for his own good.
The goalie for the Rochester Americans was Zalewski’s teammate and roommate at Clarkson, and he didn’t get what he
expected Wednesday afternoon as Zalewski beat him for the winning goal in the Devils’ 2-1 win at the Times Union Center.
“I think he was guessing a little too much on the shot,” Zalewski said. “It’s actually my old teammate at Clarkson, so I think he knows me too well. He was waiting for a shot. I just pulled it to my backhand and had the room up top.”
In a battle for the puck in the right corner, one of the Amerks tried to clear the puck out through the middle. Zalewski was hovering near the top of the right circle, picked off the puck and walked in on Leggio, flipping a backhand shot over his left shoulder into the net at 15:21 of the third period. It was his 17th goal of the season, tops among the Devils.
Zalewski was making up for a missed opportunity — and a golden one — in the first period. He found himself on the backdoor, staring at the wide-open right side of the net, but he fired left. The shot smacked right into Leggio as he slid back across the goalmouth.
“You hate, in a close game, to miss a chance like that,” Zalewski said. “I thought we did a good job of sticking with our game plan, and then you get another chance in the third, and I was able to capitalize on that one.”
The game started at 11:30 a.m., and was scoreless into the afternoon in front a few hundred school children and as many of the Devils’ regular fans as could get away from work.
In the second period, 50 seconds after Corbin McPherson took an interference penalty, Albany captain Stephen Gionta was whistled for roughing, giving the Amerks over a minute of five-on-three hockey.
They needed only 12 seconds, as defenseman T.J. Brennan scored from near the top of the right circle at 9:22. It was his 15th goal of the season, momentarily tying him with Albany rookie Eric Gelinas for the lead among blue-line goal scorers.
Gelinas broke the tie with Brennan by establishing one with Rochester, scoring his 16th of the season 43 seconds into the third period on a shot from the top of the right circle. It tied the game, 1-1, and tied him with Zalewski for the team lead, until Zalewski scored the winner.
Albany defenseman Dan Kelly took a puck to the forehead, but 10 stitches got him back out onto the ice.
Goalie Jeff Frazee (19 saves) left the game in the third after taking Kelly’s stick to the face. It went through a hole in his facemask, and took his helmet clean off. Frazee left the game with a nasty scrape on the side of his nose and into the eye area. He was on his way to get an X-ray after the game. Keith Kinkaid came in and collected the win with just four saves in 10:39 of work.
The win gets the Devils off to a good start at home, where they still have six of their eight remaining games. Now with 69 points, they are in 10th place, four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot.
“This is playoff hockey for us, essentially, from now on,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “I said to the guys on Monday, ‘Three weeks from today, we’re either going to be getting ready for Game 1 or packing our bags.’ That’s the reality of it. I felt today, because of how well we played defensively, and it was pretty tight checking, I think the guys understand that.”
Rochester 0 1 0 — 1
Albany 0 0 2 — 2
First Period — No scoring. Penalties — Whitmore, Rch (holding), 10:40.
Second Period — 1, Rochester, Brennan 15 (McNabb, Szczechura), 9:22 (pp). Penalties — Mills, Alb (high-sticking), 1:15; McPherson, Alb (interference), 8:20; Gionta, Alb (roughing), 9:10; Turnbull, Rch, major (fighting), 12:46; Urbom, Alb, major (fighting), 12:46.
Third Period — 2, Albany, Gelinas 16 (Sestito, Anderson), :43. 3, Albany, Zalewski 17, 15:21. Penalties — Varone, Rch (tripping), 1:13; Morrisonn, Rch (boarding), 12:43.
Shots on goal — Rochester 8-9-7 — 24. Albany 14-10-10 — 34.
Power-play opportunities — Rochester 1 of 3; Albany 0 of 3.
Goalies — Rochester, Leggio 24-19-2
(34 shots-32 saves). Albany, Frazee (20-19); Kinkaid 16-17-3 (9:21 third, 4-4).
A — 3,171. T — 2:19.
Referees — Graham Skilliter, Jarrod Ragusin. Linesmen — Frank Murphy, Mike Emanatian.