Three defensive-zone turnovers accounted for all the scoring Wednesday, and as the Albany Devils made one more crucial mistake than Manchester, they dropped a 2-1 decision to the Monarchs.
The last goal in the tight-checking affair came with the Monarchs short-handed, when Michael Mersch took the puck away from Albany defenseman Brandon Burlon behind the Albany net, skated it out front and beat goalie Scott Clemmensen high at 3:48 of the third period.
“They’re a team that is going to jump on that,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “They’re going to be opportunistic, and they’ve got the speed. They’re pretty tenacious on the puck in their pursuit. If you do make a mistake, they’ve got the skill to capitalize on it.”
The Devils are now seven points behind eighth-place Portland with eight games to play, and the Pirates have a game in hand.
Albany opened the scoring on a power play at 18:50 of the first period when Manchester goalie Jean-Francois Berube cleared the puck from behind his own net, but the puck was intercepted by Albany’s Matt Lorito, who quickly deposited it into the vacant net.
Manchester drew even at 12:50 of the second when David Van der Gulik intercepted a clearance from Clemmensen and passed to Nick Ebert, whose shot trickled past the Albany netminder after he got a piece of it.
Clemmensen said even after Manchester went ahead, the game was far from over and it was easy to move on to the next shift, even with all the goals coming on D-zone mistakes.
“It’s still a one-goal game at that point,” he said. “Regardless, you just keep playing. It wasn’t like it was a sixth goal for them to go up, 6-1, by five goals or something like that. We’re still very much alive in the game, we’re still pressing. Obviously, you never, ever want to give up a goal at any time, but no, it’s not difficult to stay in it at that point.”
One of the problems, however, was that Albany managed only 15 shots in the game, tying a season low (Nov. 21 vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton). In the third period, the Devils didn’t put a shot on goal until the 16:37 mark, on a point shot from Seth Helgeson. At that point, six of the Devils’ 13 shots on goal had come from defensemen.
Even on the power play that supplied Albany its 1-0 lead, before Berube’s miscue, the Devils had not even sniffed an offensive chance. It was their first shot on goal during that man-advantage and came 1:50 into the penalty.
“I thought, especially in the first period, we did a good job,” Kowalsky said. “One of our messages was to make sure we managed the puck and we wanted to play fast. I thought both teams did that for the first 20 minutes.
“I thought we lost a little steam, a little momentum, with our power-play mishaps in the second, and I thought they controlled the play a little more because we didn’t manage the puck as well. In the third, at times, it was the same thing. I didn’t think we supported and came up the ice enough or as much as we needed to.”
Manchester 0 1 1 — 2
Albany 1 0 0 — 1
First Period — 1, Albany, Lorito 2, 18:50 (pp). Penalties — Gratton, Mch, major (fighting), 5:38; Janssen, Alb, major (fighting), 5:38; Backman, Mch (tripping), 17:00.
Second Period — 2, Manchester, Ebert 6 (Van der Gulik), 12:50. Penalties — Auger, Mch (roughing), 6:30; Albany bench, served by Thomson (too many men), 7:52; Helgeson, Alb (slashing), 10:09; Horvat, Mch, minor-major (checking to the head, fighting), 13:24; Thomson, Alb, major (fighting), 13:24.
Third Period — 3, Albany, Mersch 18, 3:48 (sh). Penalties — Ebert, Mch (delay of game), 3:01.
Shots on goal — Manchester 6-18-5 — 29. Albany 6-6-3 — 15.
Power-play opportunities — Manchester 0 of 2; Albany 1 of 4.
Goalies — Manchester, Berube 33-9-4 (15 shots-14 saves). Albany, Clemmensen 8-10-2 (29-27).
A — 2,856. T — 2:08.
Referee — Dave Lewis. Linesmen — Mike Emanation, Frank Murphy.