A day after an embarrassing loss to the league’s top team, the Albany Devils showed a little more intent and pride on the ice Saturday.
Their playoff hopes dashed earlier in the week, the Devils beat Providence, 4-2, one night after the Bruins also had been eliminated from postseason consideration. Despite there being no real meaning behind the game, the Devils found reasons to keep playing.
“It’s tough to get up for games when you know you’re out of the playoffs, especially when the other team is out, as well,” Albany’s Tim Sestito said. “But we’ve got a lot to play for. We’ve got guys here who can go up and practice, maybe be a black ace, possibly get in games up top. Guys need contracts. You also want to go into next season with some momentum, as well. The last game’s going to be pretty important, and we want to keep that going.”
The Devils host Syracuse today at 4 p.m. The Crunch are in seventh place, just a point ahead of Manchester and Portland.
Sestito scored the game-winning goal at 17:57 of the second period, giving the Devils a 3-1 lead. It was his fifth game-winner of the season and ninth goal of the season. He sat out Friday’s 5-1 rout at the hands of Norfolk beacuse of a one-game suspension for a boarding call in Glens Falls on April 6.
“He was one of the guys, when we were really pushing here in the last couple weeks, I think he and Brad Mills have really elevated their game,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “They’re not guys we rely on to score, but they contributed with the physical aspect. Tim was involved in a lot of stuff in the Adirondack series. They’re veteran guys. He comes back and scores a big goal for us tonight.”
Albany got on the board at 7:30 in the first period when Darcy Zajac deflected an Eric Gelinas point shot past goalie Adam Morrison, who was making his pro debut.
“After last night’s performance, we were pretty embarrassed, as a team,” Zajac said. “We knew we had to pull it together tonight.”
He later assisted on a Mike Sislo goal midway through the third period. He, Sestito and Nathan Perkovich each had multi-point games for the Devils. Goalie Jeff Frazee stopped 34 shots for the win.
Zajac’s younger brother, Kelly, made a big save, as well, at about 16:45 in the third. Frazee made a save at the post and was out of position on a bouncing rebound. Providence’s Maxime Sauve tipped it up over Frazee’s pads toward the far side, but Kelly Zajac saw it coming.
The ECAC Hockey Best Defensive Forward was in position and smacked the puck out of mid-air to prevent the goal, which would have been Sauve’s second and cut the lead to one.
Brother Darcy didn’t even see it.
“No, but he came off the ice and told me he knocked it out of the air,” he said. “I don’t know if he was bragging or what. I’ll have to see it [on tape] to believe it.”
To end the season, the Devils get a shot at the team that, more than any, started them on their awful finish to the season. In the last 19 games, Albany is 4-12-1-2 and has been outscored, 63-42. Syracuse beat Albany three times in eight days at the start of that skid.
“I think guys remember our slide pretty much started with them. We played them home-and-home and they took it to us,” Sestito said. “It sucks not being in playoffs, but we want to exact a little bit of revenge and either hurt their chances or make them a little bruised when they go into playoffs, so they remember us.”
Providence 1 0 1 — 2
Albany 1 2 1 — 4
First Period — 1, Albany, D.Zajac 8 (Gelinas, Perkovich), 7:30. 2, Providence, Cunningham 20 (Hennessy, Camper), 16:12. Penalties — Trotman, Pro (tripping), 11:54; MacDermid, Pro (hooking), 12:11.
Second Period — 3, Albany, Tedenby 5 (Zalewski, Anderson), 1:16. 4, Albany, Sestito 9 (Perkovich), 17:57. Penalties — Robins, Pro (roughing), 6:15; Whitney, Alb (clipping), 6:15.
Third Period — 5, Providence, Sauve 10 (Spooner, Arniel), 8:11. 6, Albany, Sislo 9 (D. Zajac, Sestito), 12:48. Penalties — Sauve, Pro (high-sticking), 10:35.
Shots on goal — Providence 11-10-15 — 36. Albany 19-7-13 — 39.
Power-play opportunities — Providence 0 of 0; Albany 0 of 3.
Goalies — Providence, Morrison 0-1-0 (39 shots-35 saves). Albany, Frazee 12-19-2 (36-34).
A — 4,245. T — 2:07.
Referees — Francis Charron, Keith Kaval. Linesmen — Matt MacPherson, Bob Goodman.