ALBANY, NY — Mike Zalewski’s second goal of the game, which came after he stripped the puck and rushed in alone 46 second into overtime, dashed the Albany Devils comeback bid in a 4-3 effort against the Utica Comets Friday at Times Union Center.
Reid Boucher had a pair of goals, Brian O’Neill, who tied the game with 1:58 remaining, had a goal and an assist and Jim O’Brien had two helpers.
Here are three thoughts from Friday’s game:
Devils Pay Price to Block Shots
The Devils were committed to limiting the Comets’ opportunities all night and that effort started with blocking shots. Everyone was involved, as players planted themselves into shooting lanes to keep pucks away from their net. Pinned into their own end during a 5-on-3 penalty kill, Vojtech Mozik and Dan Kelly exemplified sacrifice as they put their bodies in harm’s way blocking several heavy shots. Mozik was visibly pained after taking a shot off his arm, but remained active on the shift to keep Utica from capitalizing. Kelly also took a shot that stung him on the the shift, but was happy to leave the ice without allowing a goal.
“It was exceptional,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky of his team’s shot blocking. “They pumped 42 shots on us last time. Their defense do a very good job of finding lanes and getting traffic to the net. Our guys did a great job with it tonight. It’s something we talk about, something we are going to need moving forward. Guys were really dialed in as far as their commitment to getting in lanes tonight.”
Boucher Continues to Shine
For the second straight game Boucher’s play shined. He played like a man possessed doing everything in every zone. Boucher blocked shots, forced turnovers and drove the offense into the Comets’ end. He was judicious with the puck and showed great vision and speed in creating scoring chances and netting his pair of goals. He consistently showed the ability to either find or create open ice.
“I feel good,” Boucher said. “I had two great plays made to me on those goals. You have to give credit to your teammates. I’m just getting to the right spots right now and the puck is finding me. I have to have a high compete level everywhere on the ice. I put in a lot of work in the D-zone. I try to work as hard as I can down there because it leads to offense.”
The Devils fell behind twice in the third period, but battled back each time to tie the game and force overtime. After being outshot in the first two periods, the Devils upped their offensive attack, generating 11 shots in the frame and many quality scoring chances. Boucher tied the game less than two minutes after the Comets had taken their first lead.
Utica recaptured the advantage, but with just under two minutes remaining in the third, Brian O’Neill deflected Marc-Andre Gragnani‘s point shot past Utica goaltender Richard Bachman to tie the game. It was the second straight game where the Devils erased a deficit in the final minutes.
“There’s a lot of character in this room; we didn’t have any quit,” Boucher said. “Our bench was good when we went down. It’s just tough we couldn’t finish that one off. “