It was the fourth line, but it seemed like the one designed perfectly for this game.
The Albany Devils wanted to take it to the Springfield Falcons, trying to keep the puck in the attacking zone as much for the sake of scoring as for keeping it away from the Falcons. Whether skating in with possession or getting in quick on the forecheck, the line of Mattias Tedenby, Stephen Gionta and Chris McKelvie sped its way into the zone and provided the first couple of goals in a 4-1 win over the Northeast Division leader on Saturday at the Times Union Center.
“We have been struggling for a couple games, lately, but today, we played well,” Tedenby said. “We worked hard and won battles and kept possession. It was pretty easy to play.”
For the first goal, Tedenby had the puck on the left side and fed it to Gionta waiting in the slot to backhand it past Springfield goalie Allen York, an RPI product. Tedenby’s hustle set up the second goal, as he was first to an errant Falcons pass in the attacking zone, touched it over to McKelvie in the corner, then popped back up and went to the net. As he came through the circle, McKelvie slid a pass to him. Tedenby’s first shot was saved, but the rebound came right to him as he continued to the net, and he buried it for the eventual game-winner.
“They play pretty tight in front of the net,” Tedenby said, “so you’ve got to be hungry for rebounds.”
The Devils’ first three goals all came from in close. The third was in the books when Mike Hoeffel skated toward the net from the right corner and passed to Tim Sestito in front, and Sestito deflected it past York for a two-goal lead at 5:54 in the third period, just three seconds
after a power play expired. The fourth goal came on a long shot from Bobby Butler into an empty net in the final minute, extending his point streak to five games (five goals, two assists).
“They call them the two-footers,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said of the first three scores. “I said that after, ‘We’ll take another two-footer.’ I think Sestito was actually in the crease. You’ve got to score and there’s not a lot of room. We did have chances off the rush with [Matt] Anderson and Butler, but it’s hard to beat goaltenders any given night from the top of the circles. You’ve got to get traffic, you’ve got to create confusion in front. All three goals were right at the top of the paint, which I’m a big fan of.”
The Devils have played Springfield just twice this season, but they have won both against the top team in the division. It’s just a matter of how they match up, said McKelvie, who had three assists on the night.
“They’re a skating team, and we’re a really good skating team, too,” he said. “I think other teams might have issues matching up against their guys up front, just because they can wheel. I think we just match up well against them, our whole team.”
Opposite York, Albany started Union College product Keith Kinkaid, marking the first time as professionals the two goalies have started against each other. In five collegiate meetings, Kinkaid owns a 3-1-1 advantage.
He had to face just 22 shots, stopping all but one on a power-play rebound, to start their pro head-to-head series with a win. Kinkaid’s rebound control and his teammates shot blocking and pass deflecting limited the Falcons’ chances.
The Devils will look for more of the same today when they host Binghamton at 4 p.m.
“We’re playing well right now,” Tedenby said. “We play very good defense, and that’s the key for our game. Play aggressive and simple hockey, good defense in the neutral zone.”
Springfield 1 0 0 – 1
Albany 1 1 2 – 4
First Period — 1, Albany, Gionta 2 (Tedenby, McKelvie), 12:12. 2, Springfield, Atkinson 17 (Calvert, Craig), 17:39 (pp). Penalties — Hoeffel, Alb (high-sticking), 16:52.
Second Period — 3, Albany, Tedenby 6 (McKelvie), 10:23. Penalties — Erixon, Spr (tripping), 6:38; Collins, Spr (high-sticking), 15:35; Hoeffel, Alb (holding), 18:11.
Third Period — 4, Albany, Sestito 4 (Hoeffel, Gelinas), 5:54. 5, Albany, Butler 15 (McKelvie), 19:10. Penalties — Johansen, Spr (holding), 3:51; Albany bench, served by Wiseman (too many men), 14:28.
Shots on goal — Springfield 7-8-7 — 22. Albany 10-10-8 — 28.
Power-play opportunities — Springfield 1 of 3; Albany 0 of 3.
Goalies — Springfield, York 1-3-0 (27 shots-24 saves). Albany, Kinkaid 9-7-3 (22-21).
A — 3,722. T — 2:10.
Referee — Trevor Hanson. Linesmen — Mike Baker, Frank Murphy.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Bill Cain at 395-3154 or email@example.com. Read his Albany Devils blog, “The Devils’ Details,” at www.dailygazette.-com/weblogs/devils/.