GLENS FALLS -- It was not a good defensive effort for the Adirondack Phantoms. Friday night’s 4-1 loss to Albany was as simple as that.
True, the Phantoms didn’t help themselves much offensively, but the game was lost in the defensive zone.
Three of Albany’s four goals came on defensive breakdowns for the Phantoms; twice a guy was left open in front of the net. There’s not much a goaltender can do in that situation.
“I don’t think we executed as well (offensively) as we did in the first,” forward Harry Zolnierczyk said. “That’s something we have to take on, but I think our D-zone was the biggest thing. They spread us out pretty big; we left some big gaps for them to take advantage of.”
And take advantage the Devils did.
Steve Zalewski set up Joe Whitney on Albany’s first and third goals. The first, at 11:33 of the first period, Zalewski sent a centering pass to Whitney and the latter sent a one-timer through Brian Boucher’s legs. Then, at 10:46 of the third period, Zalewski found Whitney alone in front of the net again to give the Devils a 3-1 lead.
“I think they out-worked us there in our zone on a couple shifts there,” Zolnierczyk said. “We had a breakdown where it was just a guy beating us off the wall and a guy kinda spilling on us there and there was a guy right in front all alone. That’s tough for Boosh.”
The pair of Brandon Manning and Erik Gustafsson — the original All-Star and the replacement — were on the ice for three of Albany’s four goals. Gustafsson was playing for the first time since Dec. 14, when he took a shot off the ankle and suffered a deep bone bruise, and on only a couple days of practice. The inevitable rust showed.
“It’s just three-on-three down low, we work on that in practice and it wasn’t very good there,” Manning said. “Myself and (Gustafsson), we gotta be a lot better there. I know it’s the first game back for (Gustafsson), you can see he was struggling out there. That’s where I gotta step up and pick him up out there.”
The Phantoms did have a chance to tie it up at two goals apiece in the third period. Eric Gelinas tripped up Zolnierczyk on a breakaway, granting the speedy forward a penalty shot. Zolnierczyk made a move to beat goaltender Keith Kinkaid but his shot rang off the post.
“I did exactly what I wanted to do — I did the move and had him beat and it just hit the post and off to the weak side. Kind of unlucky that it hit the post,” Zolnierczyk said, with a dejected shake of his head.
“Would have been nice to score that goal and tie it up.”
It was a missed opportunity more than a turning point, as the Phantoms created a few more chances for themselves, but a few minutes later Adirondack was looking up at a 4-1 deficit.
“They kept coming at us and the second and third and we just couldn’t handle them,” head coach Terry Murray said. “Too many breakdowns deep in our zone.”
Albany 1 1 2 — 4
Adirondack 0 1 0 — 1
First Period — 1, Albany, Whitney 10 (Zalewski, Burlon), 12:36. Penalties — Slater Adk, (closing hand on puck), 8:13; Sislo, Alb (holding), 16:35.
Second Period — 2, Albany, Anderson 7 (Pesonen), 9:28. 3, Adirondack, Ford 3 (Brown, Syvret), 11:16 (pp). Penalties — Zajac, Alb (slashing), 10:35; Whitney, Alb (hooking), 15:31.
Third Period — 4, Albany, Whitney 11 (Zalewski, Butler), 10:46. 5, Albany, Zajac 2 (Sislo, McKelvie), 13:00. Penalties — Anderson, Alb (roughing), 6:05; Manning, Adk (roughing), 6:05; Zolnierczyk, Adk (charging), 15:22.
Shots on Goal — Albany 3-9-2—14. Adirondack 12-9-0—21.
Power Plays — Albany 0-2; Adirondack 1 -3.
Goalies — Albany, Kinkaid 12-8-4 (27 shots-26 saves). Adirondack, Boucher 1-1-0 (30 shots-26 saves).