Two nights after being shut out by the Adirondack Phantoms, the Albany Devils got scoring from up and down the lineup.
They scored three goals in the first period of a 5-2 win Monday afternoon over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the Times Union Center. With one of their leading scorers, Scott Timmins, on the shelf for a while with a lower-body injury suffered Friday, and with offensive-minded defensemen Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill recalled to New Jersey, there was a scoring void that needed filling.
The five goals and 10 assists the Devils got Monday came from nine different players, and they’ll need more of that diversity in upcoming games.
“We’re going to need everybody to contribute,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “We got that tonight. I thought [Stefan] Matteau and [Harri] Pesonen both had strong games. Obviously, [Rod] Pelley. I kept them together, and they had a big night for us.”
That line produced two of the Devils’ goals.
Albany opened up on Bridgeport on a rush seven minutes into the game as Joe Whitney sent a pass from the right circle to Rostislav Olesz in the left, then got it back to finish past Sound Tigers goalie Anders Nilsson, who had committed to Olesz.
Second-year defenseman Raman Hrabarenka set up the next two goals, feeding Pelley in the slot following a Bridgeport turnover, then on another rush, slipping a pass to Chris McKelvie, who redirected it up and over the shoulder of Nilsson.
“Our start was pretty good,” said defenseman Dan Kelly, who netted the fourth goal on a loose puck at the back door. “We had all four lines going in waves and put a lot of pressure on them, and when that happens, you tire teams out and overwhelm them. Then you have guys going to net and banging pucks home, then you have character guys like Pelley and McKelvie putting pucks in, and that’s huge.”
Kelly also finished with a plus-three rating, which he said he was more proud of than the goal.
The third goal forced Bridgeport coach Scott Pellerin, a former Albany River Rat and Devil, to call a timeout 11:18 into the first period. He reminded his young players of their responsibilities and saw an immediate change. For the next 14 minutes, the Sound Tigers stopped giving up so many odd-man rushes and finished the first period with a pair of goals to pull within one.
“We made some errors in our system, giving them odd-man rushes, and they capitalized off the hop and put us in a tough hole,” Pellerin said. “Our guys responded, we had a good strong push back, got back into the game, but then five minutes [into the second], we had the same mistake that we tried to correct early on that cost us the two rush goals.”
The Devils not only got offensive production from all over, they were getting their defensemen more involved.
“It’s an adjustment we made last week going into the Wilkes-Barre game; a minor thing,” Kowalsky said. “Reinforcing for them to get up ice, and if there’s an opportunity to be involved in the rush on the week side. If our forwards are skating, then they’re going to push their D back. At the very least, you challenge their forwards to backcheck harder than they need to.
“Then I thought our blueline play, where it’s those D-to-D [passes], spreading them out and trying to get pucks through, I thought we did a really good job of that.”
When Hrabarenka earned his contract last fall in training camp, he described himself as a defenseman who would concentrate on his own zone, but was ready to step into the rush whenever the opportunity presented itself, so he surely welcomed the encouragement of the coaches last week.
“Of course, if you have a chance, you have to step up. Why not?” Hrabarenka said. “But the first thing for everybody is to play good defense, and the forwards will score the goals.”
Bridgeport 2 0 0 — 2
Albany 3 1 1 — 5
First Period — 1, Albany, Whitney 6 (Olesz, Sestito), 7:00. 2, Albany, Pelley 1 (Hrabarenka, Pesonen), 9:06. 3, Albany, McKelvie 2 (Hrabarenka, Boucher), 11:18. 4, Bridgeport, Pedan 2 (Keenan, Larson), 17:01. 5, Bridgeport, Sundstrom 3 (Wetmore, Sim), 18:00. Penalties — Quine, Bri (holding), 1:19; Larson, Bri (diving), 18:24.
Second Period — 6, Albany, Kelly 1 (Pelley, Matteau), 5:41. Penalties — Mayfield, Bri (tripping), 10:59; Matteau, Alb (roughing), 17:17.
Third Period — 7, Albany, Boucher 5 (Pesonen, McKelvie), 2:07. Penalties — Dalhuisen, Bri, major (fighting), 5:14; Hoeffel, Alb, major (fighting), 4:14; Hoeffel, Alb (interference), 14:43.
Shots on goal — Bridgeport 9-6-12 — 27. Albany 13-8-6 — 27.
Power-play opportunities — Bridgeport 0 of 2; Albany 0 of 3.
Goalies — Bridgeport, Nilsson 3-4-1 (27 shots-22 saves). Albany, Kinkaid 4-1-1 (27-25).
A — 2,015. T — 2:09.
Referees — Ryan Hersey, Terry Koharski. Linesmen – Frank Murphy, Francis Trempe.