GLENS FALLS -- The first period of the 5-2 loss to Albany was one the Adirondack Phantoms would like to have back.
On multiple occasions this season, the Phantoms have been sluggish to start, but their problems couldn’t be pinned on energy on Saturday. Adirondack struggled with everything — communication, passing, defense.
“It seems like a broken record,” defenseman Danny Syvret said. “There are a lot of periods we would like to have back. Hopefully over the break, we’ll as a team sort of collectively figure out how to play a whole game, rather than get behind the ball so quickly.”
While the Phantoms floundered in front of a record Albany Devils crowd of 10,218, Albany built a 3-0 lead in the first period, once again largely on defensive breakdowns.
“They’re all in our defensive zone right now,” forward Harry Zolnierczyk said. “It’s just working hard in our D-zone and I think we lack that. As soon as we let off the gas in our zone, they’re taking advantage of it.
“I think we just have to work a little harder to make sure we keep our guy on the outside. As soon as we start breaking down and trying to start covering for each other, it puts us in a bit of a position and it hurt us again (Saturday).”
A strong checking game is one of the tenets of head coach Terry Murray’s system. He has been stressing it since day one. As a result of the Phantoms’ man-to-man system, breakdowns are easy to spot and often lead directly to a scoring chance.
“We dig ourselves into such a big hole, it’s hard to get out of,” Syvret said. “
Joe Whitney set up the first Devils’ goal as he raced down the left wing and along the boards behind the net, then fed the puck to Eric Gelinas at the right point. Gelinas ripped off a slap shot that Steven Zalewski tipped past Phantoms’ goaltender Scott Munroe.
“They had good position on the first goal, the point shot, and then they just beat us on other plays,” Murray said. “Our reads were not good and we were not ready to play.”
About seven minutes later, Harri Pesonen scored his first of two goals in the game, knocking home a rebound off Brandon Burlon’s shot, as the Phantoms’ defense broke down in front of the goal.
Bobby Butler scored the Devils’ third goal with 5:30 left in the first period. Tim Sestito took a shot that went through Munroe’s legs. The netminder got enough on the puck to take away its momentum, but it sat behind him for Butler, all alone in the crease, to tap in.
It could have been worse for the Phantoms, but luck kept them from facing a 5-0 deficit. In the final two minutes of the period a shot from Albany’s Mike Hoeffel hit a post and Whitney, alone in front of the goal, went just wide of the net with his shot.
Phantoms’ defenseman Erik Gustafsson was on the ice for all three of the Devils’ first-period goals in his second game back after six weeks off the ice.
“I played terrible,” Gustafsson said. “The timing’s not really there and there’s all small things that I didn’t do right. I just got to be better than that.”
The AHL All-Star break comes at a bad time for Gustafsson, who now has to sit for four more days when he wants to be on the ice working on conditioning — there’s only so much you can do on a bike, he said.
The break might be at a good time for the team as a whole to re-group after a couple of tough losses. But the Phantoms, who are tied for last in the Eastern Conference, aren’t denying where they stand.
“We’re just delaying the obvious: we gotta get out of this hole,” Zolnierczyk said. “We’ll have to take this break to use it to our advantage and re-group when we come back. But we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Adirondack (17-21-2-1) 0 1 1 — 2
Albany (17-14-1-8) 3 0 2 — 5
Frist Period—1, Albany, Zalewski 7 (Gelinas, Whitney), 4:02. 2, Albany, Pesonen 8 (Burlon, DeSimone), 10:55. 3, Albany, Butler 16 (Sestito, Gelinas), 14:30. Penalties—Kelly, Alb (roughing), 1:14; Manning, Adk (interference), 5:35; Akeson, Adk (closing hand on puck), 12:58; Zolnierczyk, Adk (roughing), 13:43; Burlon, Alb (roughing), 13:43; Whitney, Alb (holding), 13:43.
Second Period—4, Adirondack, Noebels 5 (Akeson, Syvret), 12:11 (pp). Penalties—Gelinas, Alb (interference), 2:18; Ford, Adk (interference), 4:16; Whitney, Alb (high-sticking), 4:43; Leach, Alb (interference), 11:49; Noebels, Adk (tripping), 19:37.
Third Period—5, Albany, Pesonen 9 (DeSimone), 4:07 (pp). 6, Adirondack, Syvret 3 (Laliberte, Manning), 6:30 (pp). 7, Albany, Zajac 5 (Sestito), 19:47 (sh en). Penalties—Zolnierczyk, Adk (unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:54; Burlon, Alb (kneeing), 4:30; Urbom, Alb (holding), 12:06; Laliberte, Adk (tripping), 16:01; Leach, Alb (tripping), 19:27.
Shots on Goal—Adirondack 6-10-12-28. Albany 9-5-5-19.
Power Play Opportunities—Adirondack 2 / 8; Albany 1 / 6.
Goalies—Adirondack, Munroe 9-10-0 (18 shots-14 saves). Albany, Kinkaid 14-8-4 (28 shots-26 saves).
Referees—David Banfield (77), Ryan Fraser (14).