The sun has set on the playoff hopes of the Albany Devils.
In the failing light of their playoff chase Saturday, the Devils could not muster many quality chances against a Binghamton team in the race for a division championship, and the Senators kept pulling away to a 5-0 win at the Times Union Center.
It was the Devils’ fifth straight loss and second loss to the Senators in as many days, falling in Binghamton on Friday, 5-3.
“They’re a good team, they’re hard on pucks, they take away the middle of the ice, they’ve got great sticks,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “That was the difference last night and it was, again, the difference tonight. Our compete level, our ability to win those battles — we’re losing a lot more of them than we’re winning.”
The loss, combined with Norfolk’s 4-3 overtime win over Worcester and Connecticut earning a point in an overtime loss to Adirondack, mathematically eliminated the Devils from playoff contention.
It is the third straight year the AHL’s Devils have missed the playoffs after they made the postseason in their final season in Lowell, Mass., before coming to Albany.
The Devils still have four games to play, all at home, beginning with this afternoon’s game against Rochester at 3.
The Senators got on the board at 13:46 in the first period when Fredrik Claesson finished a give-and-go with Corey Cowick on a short-handed rush. Binghamton added a power-play tally from Dustin Gazley early in the second and a four-on-four score when Mark Stone’s crossing pass went in off an Albany skate.
Buddy Robinson and Cowick scored the game’s only five-on-five goals in the third period to punctuate the rout.
At the other end of the ice, goalie Nathan Lawson made 35 saves for his second shutout of the season.
“What I don’t think we did enough of was getting guys inside of them,” Albany centerman Steve Zalewski said. “Even in the second and in the first, as well, we had a lot of puck possession in their end, but we never really got guys through to the net.
“You saw what they did to us tonight. They scored from right on top of the crease. And last night, they had two or three like that. I think that was the difference. In front of our net, they had inside position and we were getting boxed to the outside [in their zone]. You’d see four or five of their guys inside or in front of the net, and we’d all be around the perimeter. You’re not going to score like that.”
Lawson bided his time while Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop got most of the starts this season. Since March 1, though, he has started 15 of the Senators’ 19 games and is 9-4-2 with two shutouts in that time, sporting a .942 save percentage in the final two months of the season.
Binghamton trails Syracuse by two points in the battle for the East Division championship.
The Devils, meanwhile, have to find something other than the postseason to play for in their final four games.
“What, do you pack up and go home tomorrow? I mean, you’re still getting a paycheck, and that’s the bottom line. It’s a pride thing, and that’s the most frustrating thing,” Kowalsky said. “I don’t think, by any means, we quit tonight, but our attention to detail, our commitment to structure and system has wavered at times.
“They’ve got to look in the mirror, nowhere else. You can’t put it on somebody else or put it on different guys in the lineup. As a hockey player, you should want to go out the next shift, the next period, the next day and do better than you did the day before, and that’s really what it comes down to.”
Binghamton 1 2 2 — 5
Albany 0 0 0 — 0
First Period — 1, Binghamton, Claesson 3 (Cowick), 13:46 (sh). Penalties — Kramer, Bng, major (fighting), 6:30; Janssen, Alb, major (fighting), 6:30; Cowick, Bng (cross-checking), 9:07; Lawson, Bng (slashing), 12:34; Merrill, Alb (holding), 15:04; Wideman, Bng (high-sticking), 20:00.
Second Period — 2, Binghamton, Gazley 4 (Jessiman, Lebda), 4:05 (pp). 3, Binghamton, Stone 14 (Lebda, Dziurzynski), 15:53. Penalties — McKelvie, Alb (hooking), 3:12; Jessiman, Bng (roughing), 14:14; Janssen, Alb (roughing), 14:14.
Third Period — 4, Binghamton, Robinson 1 (Stone, Jessiman), :13. 5, Binghamton, Cowick 15 (Jessiman), 18:11. Penalties — Borowiecki, Bng (roughing), 8:11; Sestito, Alb (goaltender interference), 8:32; Sestito, Alb (high-sticking), 13:40.
Shots on goal — Binghamton 7-13-14 — 34. Albany 14-13-8 — 35.
Power-play opportunities — Binghamton 1 of 4; Albany 0 of 4.
Goalies — Binghamton, Lawson 12-6-2 (35 shots-35 saves). Albany, Wedgewood 2-2-0 (34-29).
A — 4,941. T — 2:10.
Referee — Jean Hebert. Linesmen — Mike Emanatian, Rich Patry.