Albany ran into a hot rookie goalie Friday who has more wins in his own pocket this season than the Devils as a team.
Niklas Svedberg stopped 18 of the 19 shots he saw and improved to 33-8-2 as the Providence Bruins beat the Devils, 4-1. The Bruins did a good job of limiting the real scoring chances Albany had, as the Devils often had trouble stringing more than two passes together.
“There’s a reason they are where they are in the standings, but we didn’t help ourselves, either,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “That’s the frustrating part. I thought our execution . . . they come out and score early, that put us right back on our heels. We stood around and didn’t skate, and we didn’t get our forecheck going. When you turn the puck over or don’t execute and make tape-to-tape passes, a team like that’s going to jump all over it and come right back at you.”
Harri Pesonen also had a good look on a penalty shot after he was hauled down on a breakaway in the third period, but Svedberg made a pad save on the low shot.
Albany’s best scoring chance came when Matt Anderson came up with the puck near the left corner and sent a pass out front and across the crease to the team’s goals leader, Joe Whitney, whose quick shot was saved by Svedberg as he slid across the crease.
“Going into the year, [Michael] Hutchinson was a guy in his third year that we thought would be our No. 1, then we weren’t even sure if it would be Svedberg or [Adam] Morrison [in the No. 2 role],” Providence coach Bruce Cassidy said. “They were both coming in as first-year guys. Obviously, Svedberg winning a championship in Sweden, it’s a terrific hockey league, but we just didn’t know what we were getting. He played his way into the No. 1 role, and now he’s played his way into what people are writing articles and talking about.”
The Devils’ best line on the night was probably Mattias Tedenby, Tim Sestito and Pesonen. They provided some energy for a few shifts, but they were broken up in the third period, though, as Tedenby left the game late in the second.
The Bruins got on the board just 17 seconds into the game as Justin Florek scored from the top of the left circle. In the second period, Alexander Khokhlachev scored his first two professional goals in his fifth game with the Bruins, sandwiching them around Christian Hanson’s tally on a loose puck at the left post.
Despite a few short-lived spurts of energy, the Devils had trouble breathing life into their game all night. After the Bruins pounced in the second period, they were able to sit back in the third without much of a threat from Albany.
“That start didn’t help us,” Sestito said. “When you get behind the eight ball 17 seconds into the game, it’s tough. Then we didn’t really have much. Toward the end of the first, we got some, then the second period zapped us. After that, you never know. We didn’t quit, which is good, but that was too big a hole to come back from.”
The Devils got on the board at 16:00 in the third period when rookie defenseman Jon Merrill skated in from the point and fired from near the high edge of the left circle, beating Svedberg to the top-right corner of the goal.
The loss leaves the Devils five points out of the eighth and final playoff spot with eight games to play. They hopped right onto the bus after Friday’s game, traveling to play Wilkes-Barre/Scranton tonight at 7:05, and they will host Rochester on Sunday afternoon at 4.
Providence 1 3 0 — 4
Albany 0 0 1 — 1
First Period — 1, Providence, Florek 11 (Robins, Miller), :17. Penalties — Leach, Alb (holding), 11:00.
Second Period — 2, Providence, Khokhlachev 1 (Krug, Tardif), 5:40. 3, Providence, Hanson 11 (Tardif, Spooner), 9:26. 4, Providence, Khokhlachev 2 (Krug, Spooner), 19:10. Penalties — Knight, Pro (elbowing), 5:57; Anderson, Alb (tripping), 7:17.
Third Period — 5, Albany, Merrill 1 (Leach), 16:00. Penalties — DeSimone, Alb (roughing), 16:23.
Shots on goal — Providence 10-12-6 — 28. Albany 5-7-7 — 19.
Missed penalty shots — Pesonen, Alb (13:00, third).
Power-play opportunities — Providence 0 of 3; Albany 0 of 1.
Goalies — Providence, Svedberg 33-8-2 (19 shots-18 saves). Albany, Kinkaid 20-16-5 (28-24).
A — 2,731. T — 2:05.
Referees — Jeff Smith, Jon McIsaac. Linesmen — Chris Low, Rich Patry.