It is possible to win with just one scoring line.
Unfortunately for the Albany Devils on Wednesday night, it wasn’t their top line carrying the load. The Syracuse Crunch got four goals from their top line in a 4-1 win over Albany at the Times Union Center, leaving the Devils scratching their heads and looking for scoring from the rest of their lineup.
Albany’s one goal came from Reid Boucher, assisted by linemates Scott Timmins and Joe Whitney. That trio has accounted for 13 of the team’s 24 goals this season.
“That’s something, internally, we’ve talked about as a team,” Albany captain Rod Pelley said. “We can’t rely on Joe Whitney, Scott Timmins and Bouch every night. Regardless if they’re our first unit on the [power play]. Some nights, the PP isn’t going to click, and you need other guys stepping up, including myself. It’s frustrating, especially when you play a team that is detailed and doesn’t give you much. You’ve got to find ways to get the pucks to the net.”
The power play was not clicking. Not even the first unit, which also includes that top line, could convert on any of the Devils’ six power plays against a tough Crunch penalty kill.
“The last couple games, it’s been pretty good,” Syracuse coach Rob Zettler said of his team’s PK. “We’re starting to get a little bit more aggressive and read plays and pressuring them in the right way. Then our up-ice has been pretty good, too, just giving them trouble on entry. We’re looking to get real aggressive on entry.”
The Crunch got their first two goals in a span of 1:09, converting on both ends of a five-on-three power play. The second Albany penalty came on a delay of game, as the puck was sent out of the defensive zone and over the glass. Some thought it was deflected by a Crunch stick, which would not have caused a penalty on the Devils, but the officials didn’t see it that way.
The Crunch got the first goal when Nikita Kucherov scored from just below the right circle. On the second one, Kucherov was in the right corner and sent the puck out front, through the slot, but nobody was there to tuck it away.
They didn’t have to be there, though, as the puck went off the skate of Albany defenseman Corbin McPherson and past goalie Scott Wedgewood for a 2-0 Syracuse lead.
“The puck-off-the-foot goal, it’s frustrating,” Pelley said. “Very frustrating. As a penalty killer, when those goals go in, you’re just like, [throaty sigh]. I thought Corbin had good positioning and his stick was in the right place. It’s too bad his skates are size 14.”
Pelley was on the ice for both those goals and the last one of the night, when J.T. Brown, who centers Kucherov and Vladeslav Namestnikov, scored on an odd-man rush. After scoring the first two goals, Kucherov had the first assist on two for Brown in the third period. Namestnikov had three assists.
The Devils had the better of the play in the second period, getting Boucher’s goal and extending Timmins’ point streak to nine games. For the period, shots on goal were even at 5-5, but the Devils had more scoring chances, to the tune of 4-1.
Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said he thought his team was better in the second, but for 60 minutes, Syracuse was the better team.
“That’s a good team, there’s a culture over there, they don’t give you a lot of room and they’re aggressive,” Kowalsky said. “I think we got a bit of a lesson tonight that our guys can learn from. You can’t let up. You’ve got to play hard, and you’ve got to do all those little things, all the time. This team [Syracuse] does it well.”
Syracuse 2 0 2 — 4
Albany 0 1 0 — 1
First Period – 1, Syracuse, Kucherov 7 (Namestnikov, Taormina), 13:51 (pp). 2, Syracuse, Kucherov 8, 15:00 (pp). Penalties – Korobov, Syr (interference), 5:04; Kucherov, Syr (elbowing), 7:31; Timmins, Alb (hooking), 12:52; Helgeson, Alb (delay of game), 13:23; Albany bench, served by Whitney (too many men), 16:15; Sergeev, Syr (holding), 17:44.
Second Period – 3, Albany, Boucher 3 (Timmins, Whitney), 9:23. Penalties – Walker, Syr (roughing), 3:57; McKelvie, Alb (interference), 18:40.
Third Period – 4, Syracuse, Brown 2 (Kucherov, Namestnikov), 6:44. 5, Syracuse, Brown 3 (Kucherov, Namestnikov), 10:14. Penalties – Nesterov, Syr (slashing), :31; Connolly, Syr (goaltender interference), 3:29.
Shots on goal – Syracuse 10-5-4 – 19. Albany 12-5-8 – 25.
Power-play opportunities – Syracuse 2 of 4; Albany 0 of 6.
Goalies – Syracuse, Desjardins 2-2-0 (25 shots-24 saves). Albany, Wedgewood 3-2-0 (19-15).
A – 1,535. T – 2:14.
Referees – Ryan Murphy, Jamie Koharski. Linesmen – Frank Murphy, Robert St. Lawrence.