Just as with last weekend, the Albany Devils saved the best for last.
Even still, just as with last weekend, Rochester was good enough to pull out a 3-2 win Sunday at the Times Union Center.
“I thought we played hard,” Devils coach Rick Kowalsky said. “That was our best effort of the weekend. We could have probably found the back of the net a little more. [Rochester goalie Matt] Hackett, I thought, played well. We just found a way to lose tonight, and unfortunately, that’s what we’re doing.”
Hackett made 36 saves for the Americans, who are sixth in the Western Conference and hoping to clinch a playoff berth in the season’s final weekend. Albany was eliminated from playoff contention in the Eastern Conference Saturday night, and Rochester coach Chadd Cassidy said he hoped to take advantage of a possible letdown by the Devils.
“I think if we could have gone out earlier and maybe established our will on them a little bit better, maybe gone up a couple goals, it would have put them in a position where maybe they would retreat a little bit,” he said.
“But I give them a lot of credit, I thought they played really hard today, especially how they kept pushing in the third period. We probably made the mistake of leaving them around long enough. They kept pushing, got some great chances, and when they did, our goaltender was really good down the stretch.”
The Amerks got on the board with a power-play goal from Zemgus Girgensons in the first period, but the Devils responded in the second with a pair of scores. Rookie David Wohlberg tied the game, then Mike Sislo scored on a power play.
In the third, though, Rochester’s Cody McCormick set up shop in front of the goal as Nick Tarnasky won a puck battle along the boards behind the net, then fed McCormick from the left of the trapezoid for an easy tap-in. The winner came at 11:06 when Mark Mancari’s power-play point shot got through goalie Jeff Frazee, who got a piece of it, but not all of it.
Wohlberg’s goal was his third of the season, and his third in his last nine games, and it was probably the smartest play to make the highlight reel.
Defenseman Eric Gelinas sent in a shot from the point, and Harri Pesonen provided some traffic in front. The puck slipped over to Wohlberg on the right side of the slot, but he was quickly put on his back. Turning over on his side, on his left hip with his back to the net, he swept the puck into the goal, having the wherewithal to also lift it over the pad of Hackett.
“We were talking about it in between periods, that’s an intelligent hockey play,” Kowalsky said. “Most guys are going to get that and try to shovel it from their back. But he had the presence of mind, and he actually didn’t even get up to his knees, he just got enough leverage to where he can get it on his backhand. It’s tough to elevate the puck on a normal backhand, let alone in that situation. That was a heck of a goal.”
It was one of several moments in the game which showed even though the Devils don’t have much left to play for, what they have is enough.
“We talked about it before the game — just have pride in yourself, pride in the team you play for,” Wohlberg said.
Rochester 1 0 2 — 3
Albany 0 2 0 — 2
First Period — 1, Rochester, Girgensons 6 (Larsson, Rankin), 14:05 (pp). Penalties — Sislo, Alb (holding), 8:31; McKelvie, Alb (holding), 13:09; Girgensons, Rch (holding), 19:51.
Second Period — 2, Albany, Wohlberg 3 (Gelinas, Tedenby), 5:21. 3, Albany, Sislo 12 (Whitney, Merrill), 14:27 (pp). Penalties — MacKenzie, Rch (hooking), 6:28; MacKenzie, Rch (cross-checking), 14:06; Girgensons, Rch (roughing), 14:06; Tedenby, Alb (roughing), 14:06.
Third Period — 4, Rochester, McCormick 5 (Tarnasky, Schofield), 2:05. 5, Rochester, Mancari 22 (Rissmiller, McCormick), 11:06 (pp). Penalties — DeSimone, Alb (tripping), 9:37; Larsson, Rch (unsportsmanlike conduct), 13:01; Pesonen, Alb (roughing), 13:01; Mancari, Rch (hooking), 14:55.
Shots on goal – Rochester 15-9-12 — 36. Albany 11-10-17 — 38.
Power-play opportunities — Rochester 2 of 3; Albany 1 of 4.
Goalies — Rochester, Hackett 21-20-3 (38 shots-36 saves). Albany, Frazee 7-14-5 (36-33).
A — 2,525. T — 2:07.
Referee — Trent Knorr. Linesmen — Mike Baker, Glen Cooke.