The usual approach hadn’t worked much, so Albany coach Rick Kowalsky made some adjustments in the shootout.
The Devils were in the tiebreaker for the second straight night after being edged, 1-0, in a shootout by Worcester on Saturday. They turned the tables to slip past East Division-leading Binghamton on Sunday, winning the shootout, 1-0, and the game, 3-2.
This time, Kowalsky chose to shoot first, and he used a couple different shooters, sending out Kelly Zajac in the fourth round and captain Rod Pelley in the fifth. Pelley’s backhander through the five-hole of goalie Scott Greenham proved to be the winner, and Albany netminder Scott Wedgewood stopped Derek Grant on the other end to grab both standings points.
“I was watching the goalie the first few shooters and seeing that he was opening up,” Pelley said. “If I did get called, I knew what I was going to do. It happened to work out tonight.”
With eight games left to play, Albany moved six points ahead of ninth-place Hershey, though the Bears have a game in hand.
Pelley got the nod because he has scored in some of the shootout rounds the team plays in practice. It was the first time all season he has been sent out for the shootout. Albany is now 5-8 in shootouts, one season after going 3-12 to set an AHL record for shootout losses.
Grant came in on Wedgewood, made a move to the middle but had to pull it back to the left and try to stuff the puck in at the post. Wedgewood got his pad back to the post in time to earn the win.
“It’s just a desperate kind of split as far as you can go, reach back to the post,” Wedgewood said. “I couldn’t really keep my eye on him, but led with my leg and he ran out of room.”
It was the first time the Devils have trailed after one period and won the game (1-13-3-2). They were down, 1-0, after defenseman Alexander Urbom lost the puck behind his own goal and Binghamton’s Shane Prince sent the puck in front to Matt Puempel, who lifted it into the net.
“I thought we had a great first period,” Kowalsky said. “November, December, we’re probably up, 3-0, in that first period. Pelley hits the crossbar, Boucher has that puck backdoor. We seem to have to work twice as hard right now for our goals. Then we come down and make a bad mistake, and they’ve got nothing going but they get a freebie.”
Albany’s Reid Boucher tied the game on a power-play wrister from the high slot at 9:13 of the second period, and after Binghamton’s Alex Grant scored on a point shot with Wedgewood screened, the Devils drew even again on David Wohlberg’s tally on a rush.
The two points salvages what could have been a horrible weekend after a third-period collapse Friday against Hershey and the shootout loss Saturday to Worcester.
“It’s a big two points for us,” Pelley said. “Last night was a bit of a stinger, and definitely Hershey was a game that we weren’t happy with the result. There are little things we want to clean up, but it’s not the type of weekend we want to have going into the stretch run. It is really nice to pick up two points here, heading into another long week.”
Binghamton 1 1 0 0 — 2
Albany 0 1 1 0 — 3
Albany wins shootout, 1-0
First Period — 1, Binghamton, Puempel 26 (Prince), 5:51. Penalties — Culek, Bng (boarding), 17:10.
Second Period — 2, Albany, Boucher 19 (Urbom, Timmins), 6:39 (pp). 3, Binghamton, A.Grant 9 (Claesson, Schneider), 17:03. Penalties — Borowiecki, Bng, double-minor (high-sticking), 6:39.
Third Period — 4, Albany, Wohlberg 4 (Pesonen, D.Zajac), 9:13. Penalties — None.
Overtime — None. Penalties — None.
Shootout — Binghamton 0 (Schneider NG, Puempel NG, Prince NG, Pageau NG, D.Grant NG), Albany 1 (Sislo, NG, Boucher NG, Tedenby NG, K.Zajac NG, Pelley G).
Shots on goal — Binghamton 6-14-5-0-0 — 25. Albany 10-8-4-1 — 27.
Power-play opportunities — Binghamton 0 of 0; Albany 1 of 3.
Goalies — Binghamton, Greenham 3-0-1 (26 shots-24 saves). Albany, Wedgewood 14-13-3 (25-23).
A — 4,014. T — 2:26.
Referees — Tom Chmielewski, Jarrod Ragusin. Linesmen — Jim Harper, Frank Murphy.