It was like old times with Albany winger Chad Wiseman slipping a nice pass across the ice to No. 11, who buried the eventual game-winner.
Unlike old times, though, No. 11 was being worn by Bobby Butler instead of Stephen Gionta, who returned to the team this week and suited up in No. 22. Gionta and Wiseman have a couple of years of history playing together, and Wiseman took the opportunity after the game to poke fun at his old teammate, who is more known for the energy he brings to a game than a scoring stroke.
“I know Butler’s going to score from there,” he said with a smile. “Gio, I don’t know.”
The Devils had a lot to smile about, the 3-1 win over Bridgeport at the Times Union Center finally giving them consecutive wins, and both over divisional opponents. They will try to make it three straight today at 3 p.m. at Connecticut.
The team’s collective energy was good for the entire 60 minutes, resulting in a good forecheck, several rushes and near breakouts.
“We had a long week of practice, but we did a good job of channeling our energy and using it throughout the whole game and not just coming out fast and slowing down,” Gionta said. “We kept a good pace all night, and that helped us with the victory.”
Gionta centered the line with Wiseman and Mattias Tedenby, picking up an assist in his first game back and finding a few scoring chances.
“He said his legs were heavy, but they didn’t look heavy to me,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “He’s like a little roadrunner out there. He’s energy, he’s smart, he’s a big boost to our penalty kill. I talked about how Adam Henrique plays a lot of minutes in those situations, and now Gio will fill that side, defensively. He struggled, maybe, on some big draws, but that’s probably because he hasn’t taken a lot. But I thought he was good.”
Having not played in a game since the Stanley Cup finals with New Jersey in June, Gionta said he still has a little bit of rust to shake off.
“Yeah, I felt a little awkward skating and trying to handle the puck at the same time,” he said. “Hopefully, next game, I can be a little bit better handling the puck and maybe capitalizing on those chances.”
Joe Whitney got his third goal of the season at 12:37 of the first period, deflecting a shot by Adam Larsson that was moving slow and low from the point. Wiseman’s pass from the right circle during a five-on-three found Butler low in the left circle for a heavy one-timer at 4:42 of the second period, then Wiseman cleaned up a Tedenby rebound off the post on a two-on-one at 11:31 for a 3-0 lead.
“You want their goalie to move,” Wiseman said. “Any time you can get passes through the box for one-timers, it makes it that much harder for them to stop, especially when you’re passing to a guy like Butler, with his one-timer.”
The Sound Tigers got on the board with 2:07 left to play, booking an unassisted goal from Nino Niederreiter, the team’s leading scorer. Bridgeport is winless in its last eight games (0-7-0-1) and has fallen to 10-11-0-1.
Albany goalie Keith Kinkaid made 22 saves on 23 shots for the win.
They lost captain Jay Leach to a lower-body injury in the first period. Then in the third, after Albany’s Jacob Josefson picked up a major boarding penalty, there was a scrum in which defenseman Adam Larsson earned a misconduct call that sidelined him for 10 minutes, leaving the team with just four blueliners for half a period.
Bridgeport 0 0 1 — 1
Albany 1 2 0 — 3
First Period — 1, Albany, Whitney 3 (Larsson, Zalewski), 12:37. Penalties — Cantin, Bri (interference), 1:07; Watkins, Bri (interference), 1:32; Urbom, Alb (interference), 7:23; Backman, Bri (slashing), 9:34; McIver, Bri, major (fighting), 14:46; McKelvie, Alb, major (fighting), 14:46.
Second Period — 2, Albany, Butler 4 (Wiseman, Whitney), 4:42. 3, Albany, Wiseman 3 (Tedenby, Gionta), 11:31. Penalties — McIver, Bri (tripping), 3:37; Cizikas, Bri (interference), 3:59; Kelly, Alb (charging), 8:55.
Third Period — 4, Bridgeport, Niederreiter 11, 17:53. Penalties — Zalewski, Alb (hooking), 1:02; Gallant, Bri, minor-misconduct (roughing), 6:55; Larsson, Alb (misconduct), 6:55; Josefson, Alb, major (boarding), 6:55; Donovan, Bri (hooking), 8:05.
Shots on goal — Bridgeport 3-12-8 — 23. Albany 7-10-8 — 25.
Power-play opportunities — Bridgeport 0 of 4; Albany 1 of 5.
Goalies — Bridgeport, Nilsson 4-5-0
(25 shots-22 saves). Albany, Kinkaid 3-5-3 (23-22).
A — 3,006. T — 2:18.
Referees — Dave Lewis, Geoff Miller. Linesmen — Marty Demers, Paul Simeon.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Bill Cain at 395-3154 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his Albany Devils blog, “The Devils’ Details,” at www.dailygazette.-com/weblogs/devils/.