ALBANY, N.Y. (December 8, 2004). In the old days, this would have been recorded as a tie; it would have felt like a "moral victory," since the Albany River Rats not only surmounted a two-goal deficit in the third period, but managed to kill off a dubious hooking penalty in overtime. Through 65 minutes, the score was Albany: 4; Providence: 4.
But these are not the good old days. Instead, with the "shootout" feature adopted by the AHL (and under study for the NHL), a tremendous come-from-behind effort gets recorded as a loss, in this case, the 10th consecutive home defeat. Ironically, the last time that Albany prevailed at home was against these same Providence Bruins, back on October 23, in the second week of the season.
But, regardless of the inevitable headlines in the Albany dailies ("Rats lose again" or a variation on that theme), there was much to celebrate for the River Rats tonight. Other than a little bit of off goaltending by Ari Ahonen, and some defensive coverage concerns here and there, it was a pretty strong effort, particularly rallying for two goals in the third period when trailing, 4-2. (Before tonight's tilt, the record when behind after two periods was 1-10-1-0.)
The Albany power play snapped to attention tonight. The Rats converted three of eight, including a man-up goal scored on the first shot of the night. At 4:34 of the opening period, Dean McAmmond's shot from the high slot sailed over Cody Rudkowsky to give the home team the first goal.
Unfortunately for the Rats, Darrel Scoville scored on a virtually identical shot for Providence two minutes later, this one at even strength.
Aleksander Suglubov, with a four-point night, gave the Rats the lead after the first period by finishing a nice tic-tac-toe play through the slot, with help from McAmmond and Zach Parise.
A pair of Providence defensemen goals in the second period (Kevin Dallman pinching to finish off a rebound early; Jay Leach on a blue-line blast late in the middle frame) gave the visitors a one goal-lead after two periods, a cushion they built to two with Patrice Bergeron's shot from the left wing circle that eluded Ari Ahonen as he tried to slide from side to side.
At that point, the Bruins understandably resorted to a "dump in" and "chip out" game to hold their lead. After Cam Janssen got whistled for charging, strong penalty kill work by Ryan Murphy forced Darrel Scoville to hook him down, nullifying the Bruins' man advantage. That was a real concern tonight, since Providence had won their last game (Hershey) by capitalizing on 5 of 7 power plays. Tonight, the Rats blanked the Bruins on all four man-advantages.
Returning to action tonight for the first time in several weeks, from the injured list, was Albany defenseman Bobby Allen. His power play goal from the left wing circle at 14:40 of the third period cut the Rats' deficit to one, a gap erased by Dean McAmmond's shot in the final minute that was deflected into the net by Aleksander Suglubov, to knot things at four apiece.
The Rats were forced to kill off a hooking penalty to Ahren Nittel in overtime, as he was called for a play behind the net that left fans puzzled to say the least.
When overtime ended with no score, the game reverted to the shoot-out, the first one on Albany ice. Brad Boyes of the Bruins shot high and missed. Zach Parise of the Rats was stoned. Patrice Bergeron of Providence shot 5-hole but met Ari Ahonen's pads. Dean McAmmond of the Rats was blanked. The Bruins took the edge with Andy Hilbert's shot low, stick side. After Ivan Khomutov of the Rats shot into Rudkowsky's pads, the shootout was ended when Keith Aucoin's shot hit Ahonen's stacked pads and bounced in off Ahonen.
The three stars: third, to Dean McAmmond of Albany, with one goal and two assists, including the shot that became the game-tying goal by Aleksander Suglubov with 30 seconds left in regulation; second, to Andy Hilbert of the Bruins, with the shootout game-winning tally; and, first, to Zach Parise of Albany, with four assists (one for every Albany marker).
Aleksander Suglubov also had four points for the Rats, with two goals and two assists, meriting honorable mention. On the other hand, Albany defenseman, Ray Schultz, usually solid and dependable, would up at "minus-3" on the plus/minus and committed an ill-advised retaliatory roughing at the end of the second period to wipe out what would have been an Albany power play after Andy Hilbert cross-checked him and the referee raised his hand to indicate a penalty.
All in all, a strong effort for the Rats despite what will be called a "loss" under the rules and in most newspapers. This observer would have gladly settled for a tie under the old rules and would happily have added that it was a "moral victory" to come back from a two-goal deficit in the third period.