It’s one way of regaining momentum.
After entering the weekend on a four-game losing streak, the Albany Devils knocked off the top two teams in the AHL on consecutive nights, completing the feat with a 5-2 win over the Manchester Monarchs on Saturday night at the Times Union Center.
In those four losses, the Devils twice held third-period leads of two goals. In both their wins this weekend (the other a 3-0 victory at Springfield Friday), they entered the third with a two-goal lead, and this time held it and extended it.
“You look back at those four games, and two of those games, we had two-goal leads going into the third period, one against Bridgeport and one against Springfield,” coach Rick Kowalsky said. “It’s a fine line, and these games are getting tighter, closer checking, more intense.”
Albany’s Scott Timmins scored the game’s first goal and the eventual winner. He netted both from in close, the first on an Adam Larsson rebound and the second, which gave Albany a 3-1 lead at 3:51 in the second, on a quick crossing pass from Stefan Matteau.
“We kind of got in a little rut there, we were losing a couple games, and we knew we had a tough weekend with some of the top teams, so we wanted to get back to basics and what we do best,” Timmins said. “After watching those games, I think it’s no secret what we have to do from here on to be successful.
“I think we played really good team defense. We didn’t really give their skill guys much. We got a goal on the power play, which is good, we haven’t scored on that in a while. And we were strong on the penalty kill. We were just doing all the little things, and we’re just frustrating teams, it seems like.”
The Monarchs weren’t done, though, as they pulled back within a goal on Brian O’Neill’s tally at 10:22 in the second. They were derailed, though, by back-to-back penalties, the second of which set up Joe Whitney’s 14th goal of the season, a power-play strike at 16:29. Keith Kinkaid made the lead stand up with 21 saves for his 14th win of the season.
The Devils lost captain Rod Pelley to a lower-body injury Friday, further thinning their forward corps, Kowalsky said he’s been getting some tough minutes from other guys, like Kelly Zajac, who scored the Devils’ second goal on a rush early in the second after blocking a shot at the other end.
“Kelly Zajac blocks that shot … we lose Rod Pelley, a huge hole in our lineup. Penalty kill’s been losing guys almost on a daily basis. Then he [Zajac] toughs it out and ends up scoring a goal,” Kowalsky said. “It’s been real gutsy, gritty efforts like that that we’re going to continue to need until we get back to full strength.”
It gets no easier for Albany. The Devils travel to Atlantic City today to host the Hershey Bears at 4 p.m.
“You don’t really want to take the foot off the gas here,” Timmins said. “After beating the top two teams, obviously, you’re pretty happy about it. But other teams see that, and they’re going to bring their best for us. We can’t take Hershey too lightly. They always have a good team, every year, so we’re expecting a good game tomorrow.”
Manchester 1 1 0 — 2
Albany 1 3 1 — 5
First Period — 1, Albany, Timmins 8 (Larsson, McPherson), 9:43. 2, Manchester, Shore 7 (Andreoff, Vey), 18:56 (pp). Penalties — Tedenby, Alb (hooking), 1:53; O’Brien, Mch (goaltender interference), 3:27; McKelvie, Alb (holding), 5:44; Hrabarenka, Alb (interference), 17:46.
Second Period — 3, Albany, K. Zajac 4 (Tedenby, Demkov), 2:18. 4, Albany, Timmins 9 (Matteau, Larsson), 3:51. 5, Manchester, O’Neill 9 (Gale, Shore), 10:22. 6, Albany, Whitney 14 (Larsson, Timmins), 16:29 (pp). Penalties — Shore, Mch (hooking), 13:40; Vey, Mch (hooking), 15:44.
Third Period — 7, Albany, Burlon 3, 19:16 (en). Penalties — Wohlberg, Alb (slashing), 7:15; Sabourin, Mch, minor-major (roughing, fighting), 12:38; Kelly, Alb, major (fighting), 12:38.
Shots on goal — Manchester 9-7-7 — 23. Albany 4-10-7 — 21.
Power-play opportunities — Manchester 1 of 4; Albany 1 of 4.
Goalies — Manchester, Berube 14-10-2 (20 shots-16 saves). Albany, Kinkaid 14-6-1 (23-21).
A — 6,382. T — 2:14.
Referees — Jon McIsaac. Linesmen — Steeve Lemay, Francis Trempe.