Jordan Szwarz got put through a pane of glass, and he and the rest of his Portland teammates routinely put their bodies on the line Saturday night.
The Pirates blocked dozens of shots, and even still, goalie Mark Visentin had to make 34 saves to beat the Albany Devils, 5-2.
“There’s a lot of players [in the room] that take pride in their secondary game,” Portland coach Ray Edwards said. “We ask them to do uncommon things, and that’s part of it. If you noticed them, about half our team wears those shot-blockers. That’s why.”
Albany outshot Portland, 30-15, in the final 40 minutes of play, and that is just counting the pucks that made it through to Visentin.
“We had a lot of sustained pressure in the second; we outshot them, 14-7,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “We don’t have the numbers now, but I’m sure they blocked another 14 or 15.”
The first period came to an abrupt end with 3:02 left to play when Albany rookie defenseman Seth Helgeson checked Szwarz through a pane of glass a few yards into the Devils’ zone, close to the bench and even closer to a few fans. A boy in the front row and a woman a little farther back got the worst of it. The boy had a small spot on his arm bandaged, and there was no news on the woman, whose arm was cut.
“I was glad nobody got seriously injured, but a couple of them were pretty shaken up,” Helgeson said. “But it was a play that needed to be made. Needed to pinch off that guy coming down the wall and happened to break the glass.
“I asked him [Szwarz] if he was all right, and he said he was all right. That’s the best thing for that. I saw a woman in the stands, she had a cut. That goes through your mind, but sometimes that happens.”
Twice, the Pirates took a one-goal lead, and both times, the Devils answered. Then Brett Hextall scored at 10:56 of the third period to give Portland the lead for good. He added an empty-netter at 19:10.
Albany’s Scott Timmins still has a point in every game this season, extending his streak with a goal to tie it up, 1-1, just after Visentin had scrambled back into the crease from the corner.
Portland’s Gilbert Brule poked home a power-play rebound for a 2-1 lead, then Albany came back with sustained pressure early in the third.
Controlling the zone for better than a minute, the Devils finally found the equalizer at 5:01 when assistant captain Dan Kelly slipped a pass to Reid Boucher in the slot, and the rookie beat Visentin to knot the score.
“The funny thing about that, we said when he came back, Boucher was the only fresh guy out there,” Kowalsky said. “So they got the puck to the right guy. I think the guys did a good job in that regard, of identifying. This team senses situations like that maybe a little bit more than we have in the past.”
“Our forwards were doing a good job pressing them,” Kelly said. “The puck squirted out a couple times to the top, and me and Jonny were taking shots. Then the puck squirted out, I saw Bouch come around, and I figured give it to one of the hot sticks, so I slid it down to Bouch and he put it in.”
The Devils worked to find better lanes as the game wore on, but still couldn’t take a lead.
“We were just trying to get motion up top, spread the puck around and take the shot when we had the lane, with our forwards going,” Kelly said. “But they played desperate hockey, they got pucks out, they were blocking and it worked out for them.”
Albany caught a break late, as Portland’s Chris Summers was whistled for interference at 17:46, giving the Devils a late man advantage, which was a two-man advantage when they pulled goalie Scott Wedgewood for the extra attacker with 1:17 left to play.
The Devils came into the night with a 20 percent success rate on the power play. They were 0-for-6 Saturday.
Portland 1 1 3 — 5
Albany 0 1 1 — 2
First Period — 1, Portland, Martinook 2, 6:55 (sh). Penalties — Burlon, Alb (tripping), 1:06; Shinnimin, Por (tripping), 4:59; Hagel, Por, minor-major (unsportsmanlike conduct, fighting), 7:31; Janssen, Alb, minor-major (unsportsmanlike conduct, fighting), 7:31; Pesonen, Alb (hooking), 11:27.
Second Period — 2, Albany, Timmins 5 (McKelvie, Janssen), 8:06. 3, Portland, Brule 2 (Todd, Szwarz), 9:55 (pp). Penalties — Brisebois, Por (delay of game), 4:14; Whitney, Alb (cross-checking), 8:30; Brisebois, Por (tripping), 14:53; Whitney, Alb (goaltender interference), 15:48; Miele, Por (roughing), 20:00; Kelly, Alb (roughing), 20:00.
Third Period — 4, Albany, Boucher 2 (Kelly, Merrill), 5:01. 5, Portland, Hextall 1 (Hagel), 10:56. 6, Portland, Hextall 2, 19:10 (en, sh). 7, Portland, Szwarz 3, 19:53 (en). Penalties — Helgeson, Alb (interference), 7:28; Shinnimin, Por, double-minor (high-sticking), 11:05; Summers, Por (interference), 17:46.
Shots on goal — Portland 10-7-8 — 25. Albany 6-14-16 — 36.
Power-play opportunities — Portland 1 of 5; Albany 0 of 6.
Goalies — Portland, Visentin 2-1-1 (36 shots-34 saves). Albany, Wedgewood 3-1-0 (23-20).
A — 2,099. T — 2:24.
Referee — Dave Lewis. Linesmen – Brent Colby, Francis Trempe.