With four teams neck-and-neck in the race for the final three playoff berths, the Albany Devils went to the whip this weekend.
They closed out a six-point weekend with a 4-0 win over Syracuse on Sunday at the Times Union Center, whipping the Crunch with four goals in the span of 6:04 late in the second period.
“Everybody knew, here in the room, that we needed all six points and couldn’t leave any on the table if we wanted to make sure we were going to still be in the race for the playoffs,” Albany winger Harri Pesonen said. “That was a great weekend, not leaving any points there, but we’ve got two more to come. Let’s have two more, then we’re ready for the playoffs.”
The Devils’ last two games of the regular season are Wednesday at Portland and Saturday at home against Northeast Division champion Springfield. Albany is in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, tied with Providence but owning the tiebreaker. Both teams are three points ahead of eighth-place Hershey and ninth-place Norfolk, and both of those teams have a game in hand on Albany and Providence.
The 20-save shutout was a nice bounce-back effort for Scott Wedgewood, who left last Sunday’s game early.
Albany’s Reid Boucher netted his 20th and 21st goals of the season, the first after an errant Crunch pass set up his breakaway, the second on a slick give-and-go with Pesonen.
“It was a great play by [Scott] Timmins off the wall,” Boucher said. “I might have been a step offsides, I’ll have to look at it again. But I saw Pessy break in and I gave it to him, and he had the presence to give it back. It was a great play.”
Pesonen had assists on the first three Albany goals and was in front of the net on the fourth, a point shot from Reece Scarlett.
“We got life. It’s amazing, momentum, right?” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “We scored a goal, we scored two, then everybody’s got jump and it takes wind out of their sails. When [Pesonen] skates, he’s strong on the puck. We’re on him all the time to shoot and play that north-south style. He tends to get a little east-west and think he’s back in Finland, I think, sometimes.”
Pesonen has six of his 14 goals and six of his 20 assists in the last 17 games. He said the importance of these late-season games has energized him.
“All the teams pretty much have the same skill set here,” Pesonen said, “so it’s more about the will and the heart out there, so I feel like it’s my time, and I really like playing right now. I’ll just try to keep it going.”
Syracuse 0 0 0 — 0
Albany 0 4 0 — 4
First Period — None. Penalties — Erne, Syr (elbowing), 13:48; Timmins, Alb (holding), 16:00; Namestnikov, Syr (hooking), 19:19.
Second Period — 1, Albany, Boucher 20 (Scarlett, Pesonen), 12:08 (pp). 2, Albany, Boucher 21 (Pesonen, Timmins), 15:24. 3, Albany, McKelvie 9 (D.Zajac, Pesonen), 16:09. 4, Albany, Scarlett 6 (Whitney, Boucher), 18:12 (pp). Penalties — Korobov, Syr (broken stick), 8:24; Connolly, Syr (tripping), 10:17; Smith, Syr (roughing), 16:26; Witkowski, Syr, major (fighting), 19:32; McKelvie, Alb (roughing). 19:32; McKelvie, Alb (interference), 19:32.
Third Period — None. Penalties —Rankin, Syr (hooking), 2:57; Richard, Syr (unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:03; Janssen, Alb (unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:03; McPherson, Alb (slashing), 8:52; Namestnikov, Syr (slashing), 10:29; Labrie, Syr, minor-game misconduct (interference, abuse of officials), 13:27; Angelidis, Syr, misconduct (unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:42; McKelvie, Alb (roughing), 18:42; D.Zajac, Alb, misconduct (unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:42.
Shots on goal — Syracuse 7-4-9 — 20. Albany 6-10-4 — 20.
Power-play opportunities — Syracuse 0 of 4; Albany 2 of 8.
Goalies — Syracuse, Lavigne 0-1-0 (20 shots-16 saves). Albany, Wedgewood 15-14-3 (20-20).
A — 2,714. T — 2:15.
Referee — Keith Kaval. Linesmen — Frank Murphy, Francis Trempe.