Springfield’s game-winning goal kind of summed up the entire 60 minutes for the Albany Devils on Wednesday night.
During a stretch of four-on-four hockey in the second period, Scott Howes walked through the Albany defense behind the Devils’ net, then slipped out front for a shot and a goal. All of this with all four Albany skaters in the zone, three of them within reach of a stick, none of them able to stop him as he strolled through for a 3-1 advantage at 14:27. Springfield went on to win, 4-2.
“We were terrible,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “Arguably the dumbest hockey game I’ve seen played by a team in a long time.
“Take your pick. Turnovers, execution. I mean, the third goal, if you include the goalie, was essentially a one-on-five. That started in the corner, went behind our net, and he still winds up getting it . . . soft . . . You name it, I don’t know if there’s anything we didn’t do wrong tonight.”
The goal came at a time that should have been a high-energy stretch for the Devils. They had just escaped disaster in the few minutes before.
Rookie defenseman Raman Hrabarenka’s shot was blocked by Ryan Russell, who got out for the loose puck and a breakaway. Hrabarenka was whistled right away for a trip during the breakaway, then a hook.
Russell’s penalty shot rang off the left post, and the Devils escaped once.
Hrabarenka had to serve the hooking penalty, so Albany had to count on its penalty kill to keep it close. The Devils killed it off, escaping twice. From all that, though, they gathered zero momentum, or at least, like many of their passes, could not hold on to it.
“They don’t score on the penalty shot, and you’re still in the game,” Kowalsky said. “That’s a turning point. Then you come down and get away with it, we kill the penalty, then they come back and score just a soft goal. It’s deflating, but you’re still in it, but it’s tough after you’re sitting there watching that.”
Mike Sislo scored a shorthanded goal earlier in the second period, just 41 seconds after Springfield took a 2-0 lead, to cut the deficit in half. Another potential turning point turned into momentum that was fumbled away.
“Getting down a goal, early, we needed to get the momentum back. I think it definitely helped, but it was a pretty sloppy game by us all night,” Sislo said. “We couldn’t make passes and weren’t moving our feet the way we should be.”
The Falcons have won six straight games. They got this one without much production from their top scorers, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault (16-28-44) and Nick Drazenovic (13-24-37), who had no points and combined for a minus-two.
Instead, the line of Michael Chaput, Ryan Craig and Tomas Kubalik showed up in a big way, posting two goals and five assists between them. The Howes goal was the only one on which none of the trio factored.
“If I’m honest, I didn’t really like them [Audy-Marchessault and Drazenovic] that much tonight, and I’m sure if you asked them, they’d say the same,” Springfield coach Brad Larsen said. “I thought the Chaput-Craig-Kubalik line was fantastic tonight. [Jake] Hansen and [Dalton] Smith brought great energy tonight. Scott Howes, when they’re putting on a lot of pressure, he puts us up, 3-1.”
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
The Falcons recently added a veteran defenseman to balance out the youth on their D corps. Bryan Helmer, who began his pro career with four seasons as an Albany River Rat and is the league’s all-time leader among defensemen in points (562) and assists (433), signed once the lockout ended and is in his 20th year as a pro, 19th in the AHL at age 40. He finished with a plus-two and nearly set up an empty netter at the end of the game.
Springfield 1 2 1 — 4
Albany 0 1 1 — 2
First Period – 1, Springfield, Goloubef 2 (Craig, Chaput), 8:45. Penalties – Urbom, Alb (interference), 16:52.
Second Period – 2, Springfield, Chaput 6 (Kubalik, Craig), 4:39. 3, Albany, Sislo 2, 5:20 (sh). 4, Springfield, Howes 1 (Erixon, Joudrey), 14:27. Penalties – Kelly, Alb (interference), 4:53; DeSimone, Alb (hooking), 9:13; Joudrey, Spr (tripping), 11:36; Hrabarenka, Alb (tripping), 13:45; Audy-Marchessault, Spr, double-minor (interference, unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:08; Joudrey, Spr (tripping), 17:23.
Third Period – 5, Springfield, Kubalik 11 (Chaput), 1:34. 6, Albany, Whitney 9 (Butler), 5:02. Penalties – Hoeffel, Alb (delay of game), 2:16; Goboulef, Spr (interference), 8:39; Chaput, Spr (roughing), 12:58; Gelinas, Alb (roughing), 12:58; Kubalik, Spr (tripping), 15:25.
Shots on goal – Springfield 12-9-12 – 33. Albany 13-7-7 – 27.
Missed penalty shots – Russell, Spr, 13:45 second.
Power-play opportunities – Springfield 0 of 5; Albany 0 of 6.
Goalies – Springfield, York 5-3-0 (27 shots-25 saves). Albany, Frazee 3-7-4 (33-29).
A – 2,323. T – 2:12.
Referees – David Banfield, T.J. Luxmore. Linesmen – Mike Emanatian, Frank Murphy.