Coming off the weekend sweep, the Devils looked to continue their season long winning streak with two home games and a quick road trip. And they managed to do that, extending the streak to 5 before a season-long problem came back to haunt them yet again. Looking back on a fairly good week:
To mark 12-12-12, the Devils played host for the second time this season to the Penguins, this time in Albany (the first matchup, if you recall, was in Atlantic City in November). The Penguins dominated most of the first period, outshooting the Devils 11-5 and taking the lead halfway through the period on a Riley Holzapfel goal. But with just over 2 minutes remaining, Bobby Butler tied it up at 1. That would not be the last we would be seeing of Mr. Butler, not by a long shot. Second period was probably the best period of the season for the Devils thus far, as they outshot Wilkes-Barre 13-9 and scored 3 times. Harri Pesonen started the period on a good note with his second goal of the season just 1:03 in. 45 seconds later Butler scored his second of the night for a 3-1 lead. Brian Dumoulin would cut the lead back to 3-2 about two minutes later. Five minutes later, with Dan Kelly in the box, Butler broke away short handed and finished off the hat trick (the first by an A-Devil since Joe Whitney in Springfield back in January) for a 4-2 lead. Then the fun and games began, with the first bout of the evening between Kelly and Eric Tangradi. Jayson Megna would cut the Devil lead again to 1…then came a wild third period. Just 21 seconds in, Darcy Zajac took on Pens rookie Bobby Farnham. Steve Zalewski added just his second goal of the season two minutes later for a 5-3 lead. Then for good measure Butler added goal #4, virtually doubling his season output in one game, to put the Devils up 6-3. After that…it turned into fight night at the Times Union Center. First on the card, Zalewski (who I do not recall ever fighting, at least while in a Devils uniform) taking on Dominik Uher. Peace was then restored…for 10:05. With 4 minutes to go, Zajac and Uher went for a round. A little more than three minutes later…more fisticuffs as Chris McKelvie and Tim Sestito each had a fight behind the Wilkes-Barre net. Then to top off the night, Farnham slashes a Devil prior to a faceoff and starts chirping. He gets shown the door, but then for good measure Kelly and Warren Peters start up fight #7. Finally everyone settled down, and the Devils held on for their 4th straight win. Lost in all the fights and Butler’s goals was another good night for Keith Kinkaid, as he stopped 24 of 27 shots. Joe Whitney, Jacob Josefson, and Zalewski each contributed two assists, while Butler assisted on another goal for a 5 point evening, the first Albany non-River Rat to accomplish that. Another strong night for the penalty kill, going a perfect 5 for 5 (and we won’t address the 0 for 7 power play).
The Devils hit the road to Hartford on Friday for their second matchup in 6 days against the Whale. Unlike in Sunday’s matchup, it was Connecticut who got on the board in the first period, on a Ryan Bourque goal 7 minutes into the game. Albany did manage to outshoot their hosts 8-5. It was all Devils in the second period, as they scored three times on Cam Talbot and outshot the Whale 17-5. Tim Sestito tied the game at 1 just 1:35 into the second. Then with Brandon Segal serving a tripping call, his teammate Kris Newbury just slid the puck past Keith Kinkaid to give Connecticut a 2-1 lead. But just 18 seconds later, Eric Gelinas scored his first of the year (yes, you read that right, it was a power play goal) to retie the game at 2. A little over 3 minutes later, Jacob Josefson and Mike Sislo were called for penalties just 17 seconds apart…and the Whale took advantage, retaking a 3-2 lead on a Christian Thomas goal. But to seal the period, Bobby Butler scored his 5th goal in 2 games with 2 and a half minutes to go to tie the game yet again. Third period was basically uneventful…until the last 2:30 of the contest. Harri Pesonen broke away and scored with 2:19 on the clock for a 4-3 Devil lead. Kinkaid shut the door after that, and there’s your fifth win in a row. Overall the Devils outshot Connecticut 32-18. Kinkaid stopped 15 shots to pick up his sixth win of the season. Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby each contributed two assists.
To finish the week off, the Devils hosted Providence, a team just as hot with a 4 game winning streak of their own. Albany wasted a great chance to get ahead during the first, wasting a four minute power play halfway through the period. Then they found themselves in a 1-0 hole on a Zach Trotman goal. Second period Providence may have outshot the Devils 13-8, but once again it was Bobby Butler stepping up, tying the game at 1 on…gasp!…a power play. It was his sixth goal of the week, putting him in serious league Player of the Week consideration. After that the goalies took over, as both Jeff Frazee (in his first appearance since November 30th) and Michael Hutchinson kept both teams off the scoreboard. The Devils had several opportunities late in the third period to break the tie, getting three power play opportunities, including a 4 on 3 for the first 1:47 of overtime. But they were not able to come up with the winning goal. It was then on to the shootout, which has been the Devils worst enemy all season at a staggering 0 for 5. It looked good early on, as Mattias Tedenby and Mike Sislo scored in the first three rounds. But Frazee gave up two in the first three rounds as well, to Chris Bourque and Jamie Tardif. Then it became a game of who would crack first, as the teams went five rounds without anyone scoring. In the 9th round, David Warsofsky finally solved Frazee, giving the Bruins a 3-2 SO lead. It was all up to Stephen Gionta to keep the round going…and he shot right into Hutchinson’s pads, sealing shootout loss #6 and stopping the win streak at 5. Frazee played well for his first game in two weeks, stopping 27 of 28 shots in yet another hard luck loss. Adam Larsson and Joe Whitney had the lone assists. A good night for the penalty kill yet again, going 3 for 3. But the power play? A lot of wasted chances in going 1 for 8, lowering the league worst power play percentage to 9 percent.
-Early Saturday afternoon, the Devils announced that defenseman Matt Corrente is out for the remainder of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery on Friday. It’s yet another injury blow to Corrente, who apparently was hurt Sunday afternoon in Connecticut after tangling with the Whale’s Micheal Haley. He only appeared in 11 games, registering 2 assists and 32 penalty minutes. He has not played a full season since 2008-09, his first season in Lowell.
-As for the rest of the walking wounded: Jay Leach sat out the week with a lower body injury, he had mentioned during the team’s STH Holiday Skate on Monday he expected to be back for the pre-Christmas road trip, but in reality he will not be back in the lineup till after the holiday. Raman Hrabarenka (foot) did warm up on Friday in Hartford, but he did not play in either game this week. We’ll see if he goes on the road trip or not. Stephen Gionta returned to the lineup on Saturday, while the other #22, J.S. Berube, is still considered out indefinitely. Adam Henrique (thumb) may return in early January.
The Week Ahead:
The Devils finish off the pre-Christmas portion of their schedule with a 3 game road trip. Wednesday night they make their first visit of the season to Bridgeport to take on the Sound Tigers. Then it’s due south to Norfolk on Friday and Saturday night to take on a struggling Admirals team before the Christmas break.