What the Albany Devils did in their first two games this week — what they did in the first two periods Saturday night — they could not replicate in the last 20 minutes.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins scored an early third-period goal to go up by two and kept Albany at arm’s length the rest of the way in a 5-2 win, despite a strong second period by the Devils, who had won two games earlier in the week in pursuit of a playoff berth.
“I talked to some of their guys [after the game], and they said we took it to them in the second period,” Albany defenseman Matt Taormina said. “I thought that was correct. It is unfortunate we kind of slipped up a little a couple times on their power-play goals. We never really gained anything back in the third period. We just never could pick up our game and take over.”
The Devils remain in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, but fell four points behind eighth-place Manchester with six games to play.
Albany outshot the Penguins, 14-7, in the second period. Taormina tied the game, 2-2, at 9:05 on a power-play strike from above the right circle.
The Penguins regained the lead at 14:30 when Robert Bortuzzo dropped a pass for Paul Thompson to the right of the slot and he beat Albany goalie Keith Kinkaid from about the same spot as the first two Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goals had been scored.
Defenseman Alex Grant netted both of them after long crossing passes from the left side.
Still, the Devils trailed by just one goal. Then Tim Sestito was whistled for boarding with just under 26 seconds left in the period, and the Penguins capitalized 55 seconds into the third to take back any momentum the Devils felt after a strong middle period.
On that goal, Kinkaid initially seemed to have it covered at the right post, but Ben Street poked it free and it got behind Kinkaid
toward the left side of the net, where Ryan Craig tucked it into the net. Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said referee Mark Lemelin changed his mind about the call mid-tweet.
“I just watched it [on tape]. No different than Norfolk where we had the same situation and it was in the net,” he said. “The referee — if he’s in the process of blowing the whistle, or the thought process has hit him that the puck is covered, then it’s waved off, which is in the rule book. He’s not positioned to see that puck behind Keith. Does it squirt through? Yeah, but the only person who can see it is the guy who got behind him. He was in the process of blowing the whistle, and actually blew the whistle to blow it dead, and then by the time he got to the goal line, he saw it in. That should have been covered, but I don’t think he had any idea the puck was loose, and the whistle should have been blown.”
The Penguins already had a playoff berth sealed up, and coach John Hymes said Albany’s pursuit of one may have given them an edge in the first two periods.
“Albany played extremely well in the second, and you could tell there was that internal hunger for them because of the playoffs and the situation they’re in,” he said. “For us, we need to make sure we’re playing a certain way and doing a certain thing, because we had to be able to have more push-back than we did in the third period than we did in the second, and we were able to do that.”
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 1 2 2 — 5
Albany 0 2 0 — 2
First Period — 1, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Grant 9 (O’Reilly, Picard), 15:49 (pp). Penalties — Grant, WBS (hooking), 6:15; Urbom, Alb (holding), 9:41; Corrente, Alb (elbowing), 15:42.
Second Period — 2, Wilkes-Barre/Scanton, Grant 10 (Street, Walker), 1:41. 3, Albany, Hoeffel 5 (Whitney, Nagy), 3:39. 4, Albany, Taormina 6 (Whitney, Mills), 9:08 (pp). 5, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Thompson 10 (Bortuzzo, McDonald), 14:30. Penalties — Grant, WBS (slashing), 5:18; Gibbons, WBS (slashing), 8:00; Albany bench minor, served by Tedenby (too many men), 11:50; Sestito, Alb (boarding), 19:34.
Third Period — 6, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Craig 10 (Street, Despres), :55 (pp). 7, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Petersen 10, 18:05 (en). Penalties — Anderson, Alb (tripping) 2:17 Walker, WBS (slashing), 9:35; Gionta, Alb (holding), 9:35; Gelinas, Alb (cross-checking), 10:15; Picard, WBS (interference), 14:53.
Shots on goal — Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 6-6-9 — 21. Albany 7-14-8 — 29.
Power-play opportunities — Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 2 of 6; Albany 1 of 4.
Goalies — Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Thiessen 21-14-2 (29 shots-27 saves). Albany, Kinkaid 17-18-3 (20-16).
A — 3,998. T — 2:11.
Referee — Mark Lemelin. Linesmen — Robert St. Lawrence, Paul Simeon.